Grief & Joy
As I sat in church on Christmas Eve, I looked around and realized in that room at that moment, so many experienced the joy of the season while at the same time struggling with grief. Grief & joy – they seem so incompatible, and yet, they have so many similarities.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
- Grief: a deep sorrow
- Joy: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires
Both are deep emotions. We’re not talking about happy and sad, which can be used to describe a successful sale or a Pinterest-fail! Grief & joy are words used to describe relationships, life experiences, existence from birth to death – deep heavy-duty stuff. Both tend to be a reaction rather than self-emergent. Grief usually comes from the loss of something, while joy comes from the attainment of something, and these often are the same things: a friend, a child, a dream, a goal, a significant item, a job, etc. Both emerge at similar times: holidays, special occasions, when you’re alone, when those around you are experiencing either or both.
With so many similarities, is it so surprising that we can experience both at the same time?! It would be simple if we could experience emotions in their own little boxes; if we could schedule grief from 10am-12pm and then move onto joy at 2pm, then life for all of us would be so much easier and fit in my daily planner. But that’s not the way we work. We are created to be complex, complicated beings with multiple thoughts, experiences, and emotions all wrapped into one. So we find ourselves in the midst of grief & joy at the same time.
We ugly cry over a loss, and then, when reminiscing with our best friend, belt out a spontaneous sloppy laugh in spite of ourselves – grief & joy. We clap loudly at our child’s graduation while remembering those family members who are no longer there to clap with us – grief & joy. We plan birthday and anniversary parties to celebrate the passing of another year – grief & joy.
I experience this complexity when filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office. “What prompts grief & joy in paperwork?!” you might be thinking.
For me, it’s these two questions: How many pregnancies have you had?
- How many children do you have?
See, I’ve had two pregnancies: one resulted in a miscarriage and the other brought us our son. Grief & joy – one line apart on the paperwork.
So how are we to deal with this contradiction within ourselves? How are we to articulate this complicated response to the question “How are you doing?”
We accept both emotions as true and right because to deny either is a lie to ourselves. We experience the goodness & mourn the loss. We smile at the thought of someone & shed a tear that they aren’t’ in the next room. We celebrate our child’s start to another year & miss the days he needed to hold our hand. We sing Christmas carols with our church family & wish our family members were in town to sing with us. We provide a REAL answer to the question.
We do both grief & joy.