Catching Your Breath in Grief
...and grace will lead you home
Tom is proud to present Catching Your Breath in Grief. There is simply nothing like it on any bookstore shelf, anywhere. It is a one-of-a-kind, heart-to-heart invitation to reflect on essential realities of life, deep human needs in soul and spirit, agonies of loss, and the hope and meaning possible in dark times. It is a small (@ 110 pages) and accessible (some say lyrical) treatment of profound truths from philosophy, depth psychology, and spirituality. Its combination of engaging text and uncannily matched, exquisite photographs is unique.
The book tells a universal human story that resonates with experiences of wonder about life, its origins, and its place in the great scheme of things; longing for self-understanding; connectedness, care, and love; loss and the suffering it entails; hope that sees beyond and reaches through brokenness and sorrow; and searching for meaning in encounters with abiding mystery. Its themes thread through the world's great spiritual and religious traditions. It captures whatever wisdom Tom has acquired in nearly forty years of reflection, teaching, and writing about the meanings of life, death, loss, and grieving. It celebrates the fullness of life.
Part I tells the story of the breath of life itself: the mystery of its coming and going, the grace that gives it, its animating power, the life support it provides, the intricate web of human connections it sustains, how we take it for granted, and the good reasons why faith traditions identify the breath of life with soul and spirit.
Part II tells the story of how the loss of someone we love takes our breath away: the unraveling of the webs of our lives and the sorrow that comes over us (grief reaction); the realization of how much we have taken for granted; the crises of ego, soul, and spirit that leave us gasping for breath; the deep needs that cry out from within; and assurance that, though its smooth flow is disrupted, the breath of life itself continues unbroken.
And Part III tells the story of how, through active engagement with what has happened to us (grieving response), we catch our breath by: adopting sorrow-friendly practices that enable us to breathe into our suffering and learn vital lessons from it, drawing upon hope and the resilience of our soul and spirit to meet our needs, learning to carry sorrow, relearning the worlds of our experience, reweaving the webs of our lives, and learning to love in separation through memory and legacy.
(Excerpts from several small pieces in the book have been combined to form the scripts for the Open to Hope videos that are to found on this web site.)
Presenting the Story
Tom and his life-long friend who took the photos and designed the book, Bill Rathje, present the story in page pairs with photos on the left and matching text on the right for specific purposes. Some may want to read the book all at once, and the text is brief, so reading it in one sitting is possible. Yet the substance of the book is very rich. Each page pair can stand on its own and easily provide enough food for contemplation. We anticipate that many will choose to take in small pieces at a time. They may use the book as a companion over the course of many days, weeks, or even months, moving ahead when they are ready or returning to especially compelling pieces as need arises or spirit moves them.
The page pairs meet the readers as the whole persons they are, drawing them into combined thoughtful (left-brain) and vivid (right-brain) experiences. The forest green color of the pages provides a lush background for the nature photos and the life-affirming text. And the border reinforces the ties between the photo and text pages. The horizontal shape and substantial size of the pages will allow the book to rest easily in a reader's lap should he or she want or need to pause.