"Everyone Grieves Differently." Really?

“Everyone grieves differently.”

“No one should tell me how to grieve.”

“There isn’t a right way to grieve and a wrong way to grieve.”

Every day you can read these statements and different versions of these statements all over the internet.  They are almost declarations of “Don’t you dare mess with my grief.  I get to do it my way.”  I am quite certain that early in this 20+ year grief journey of mine, I said the exact same things.

And while I agree 1,000% that each person gets to DO GRIEF however he or she wants to ... I think we do ourselves and each other a disservice when we don’t at least admit there are healthy ways to “do grief” and unhealthy ways to “do grief.”

And in each of the statements above “grieve” (a verb) is referring to one’s response to grief. 

Everything changed for me shortly after my son Rory died in 2005 when I decided to define grief as the internal, automatic response  to loss.  In defining grief this way ~ as the internal, automatic response to loss ~ it becomes clear that EVERYONE, yes, everyone is living with grief, because everyone is experiencing different types of and intensities of loss everyday.  Grief itself isn’t right or wrong.  Grief just is.  It’s what happens inside of us.  And the truth is ... we all have much more in common in our grief experiences than we’ve been lead to believe.

Grief expresses itself in hundreds and hundreds of often surprising and confusing ways.  Some of the ways grief expresses itself include feeling sad, angry, jealous, panic-stricken, exhausted, desperate, lonely, abandoned, confused, frightened, dizzy, regretful, lost, forgotten, neglected, wounded, forgetful, disoriented, etc., etc. etc.  And remarkably, we may feel all of these feelings and emotions at the same time ... or in a matter of moments ... or over and over and over again.  Grief, especially at first, often feels like a tsunami reeking havoc inside of us; like a volcano erupting 24/7; grief is a twister tossing and turning and destroying everything in it’s path.

So, we are all living with grief.  And we all have much more in common in that grief than we often realize.  Realizing that our grief brings us together, instead of pushing us apart can help us feel less alone.  That realization, in itself is healing.

I believe there is a healthy response to grief

And I believe there is an unhealthy response to grief.

There is a response that will help us heal ... and a response that will keep us stuck, drowning in that black pit of despair.

I know this may be hard for folks to hear ... but it’s the truth.  There is a healthy, healing response to grief ... and an unhealthy, un-healing response to grief.  And you are 1,000% free to choose to respond whichever way you like.  I just think it’s helpful - that if you are choosing to respond  in an unhealthy, un-healing way ... that you are aware of it.

If you want to heal ... you must mourn.  You must push the grief up and out.  You must ACTIVELY ENGAGE WITH YOUR GRIEF  You must express it.  You must dance with it, wrestle with it, marinate in it.  Then you must release it; and allow it to release you.  You must “DO GRIEF” a new way.  You must mourn.  In order to heal, we must mourn.

How does one mourn?  How do we push the grief up and out?  There are many, many ways.  First set the intention to heal.  Declare it.  Let healing be your goal, your prayer, your motivator.  And then you must take action.

You must “DO GRIEF.”  You must engage.  Express.  Allow..


Talk about it.  Over and over and over.

Paint it.  Draw it.  Form it in clay.  Art is a wonderful, healing way to express that which you might not be able to express through words.

Dance it.  Move it.  Release grief though shaking your body.

Beat it out on a drum.

Write it out.  In a journal.  In a poem.  In your blog.  In a letter to yourself.  In a letter to your beloved; the one  who has died.

Sing it out.  Compose your own song.

Play it out.  On an instrument.  Guitar.  Flute.  Violin.

Exercise it out.  Cross fit.  Zumba.  At your gym.  On a stationary bike.  A stairmaster.  In a pool.

Run it out; jog it out; walk it out.

Yoga it out.

Meditate it out.

Scream, shout, wail it out.

The healthy response to grief, if you want to heal, is to mourn.


There is a new way to DO GRIEF

and we must become the teachers.

Join us at www.facebook.com/tomzuba1



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  • I feel lost. I just lost my husband last wednesday to Colon cancer…It was the painfulest thing i have ever watched or ever watch again. My husband died a gruesome death even with all the pain meds that hospice was giving him. I have days where I cry a little, feel as if i will not make it on my own. Ramble around the house, go on a cleaning spree. And at the same time nothing makes sence.

    Yes everyone is telling every grieves differently and I feel as though i am letting him down because I haven’t just sat and cried and cried…

    Basically I feel lost.

  • Dear Tom,
    I so appreciate this blog. My husband passed 2 1/2 years ago. He had a massive stroke on 3/29/12 and passed on 4/14/12. We had been married for almost 43 years and were both (only) 65. At the time I actively sought help from Hospice counseling, friends, healers and a very close psychic friend. I worked with all my might to be intentional about my healing path, to feel my grief to its fullest but at the same time to not let it define me. It was very hard work and I believe that is why some people give in to their grief and allow it to be all-encompassing…they eat, breathe and live it.
    Ask, believe, be proactive and receive!
    I too have heard we must all grieve in our own way and sometimes I just want to scream! What does that mean? Does it mean it has no form, no intention, no belief that one will survive?
    I did many of the things you suggested as well as becoming a Spiritualist thereby consolidating all of the beliefs I have held over the years (all of the years before my husband’s death were spent as a Catholic and a Methodist) but never knew there was a place for them. Spirituality is such an important component in healing…at least for me and my fellow church members.
    I feel as if I’m rambling but I have never felt so connected to someone as I feel with you. Your success affirms for me the beliefs I have held for so long. I don’t know why I had never seen your information before but I am so glad I have now!!
    My grief will always be a part of me…but I will tell you it has been transformative…I am a better person because of it and I am healing with joy! I have gratitude for life, for the beauty in it, for my family and friends and every moment! (Well, almost!)
    There are times I picture myself as Zig Ziglar…up on stage saying “Are you stuck?” “What actions are you taking to get unstuck?” “Are you letting your grief define you?” “Are you reveling in your pain, constantly living in a pity party?” “Are you reaching out for help because one of the realities of life is that life does go on for other people?” “Do you know that if it’s meant to be it’s up to me?” “Are you holding onto your anger because it feels so good?”
    Tom, I truly appreciate your “listening” to me…A lot of the things I have said I have said to no one before…

    Judy Jackson

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