When I think of grieving, I think of pain and sadness. I think of my stomach in knots, tears flowing uncontrollably and a broken heart. Joy has no place in grief at first glance.
To me, grief is like a precious vase or plate that shatters into pieces. You look at all of your feelings and pieces of love and wonder how you can ever repair it—it feels destroyed.
Life isn’t perfect and we will all experience loss and grief. It is something we all will share at some time or another. For some of us, it may be an animal we have loved like a child, for others it may be a parent, sibling or even a child. My friend Susie Krabacher, who runs an orphanage in Haiti, is losing children she has raised by the hundreds because of the earthquake. There is no joy in these losses.
Joy, for me, came when I could let the loss of my brother (to suicide) change me. I make a decision that the trauma I felt in not having him be a part of my life, in wondering what I could have done to help him, in being the one to have to tell my parents..had to be something I honored his life with. He would have hated it if I had crawled in a hole and let it destroy me. He ended his life, he didn’t end mine. I decided that I needed to find ways to love and remember him as the beautiful soul that he was.
So I did. I thought about him, prayed about him; when I’d see a movie or go somewhere I thought he’d love, I would talk to him in my heart about it. While sadness was always there when those moments came up, joy began to creep in as well. It’s as if the missing of him became part joy because it brought him closer to me.
There are no quick fixes or formulas to pain or grief or loss. What may work for one person, may not for another. What I think the focus should be is: How do we honor and remember the loved one who left? Find ways to do that and see if there can be a form of joy in doing that.