Finding Joy After Grief - Moving On After Tragedy
Many thanks to my friend Wendy for this inspirational article which shows that it is possible to find joy again after grief.
Some people will tell you that life is a fairy tale. Others will say life is a nightmare. However I agree with the wonderful American satirist Tom Lehrer who said that life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.
I went through a difficult time when my husband was dying of a malignant brain tumor. I wondered why it had to happen to such a wonderful man. I wondered what we had done as a couple to deserve such agony. When I lost a breast to cancer six months after my husband’s death I had no energy to waste on asking unanswerable questions so I decided that “Shit happens”. There is no rhyme or reason, no great plan, no secret agenda. “Shit happens”. We have little or no control over these events and we have no way of predicting or understanding them.
During that five year period I lost my husband, a breast, my father and eight good friends. However throughout that time I also gained much personal strength, more self awareness and increased ability to see the joy of life.
It seems trite but after grief you do see the beauty of everyday things like a sunset, seasonal changes, a child’s progress with an increased intensity that is amazing. You realize how vital friends and family are. How unimportant material things are unless they help you achieve joy.
A Story of How I Found Moments of Joy After Grief
My mother is 94 years old but pretty fit and healthy. We had lost my father a year earlier. They had been together since she was fourteen. We expected her to give up but quite to the contrary she decided she wanted to fly from Newcastle in UK to Atlanta in Georgia USA to meet her great grandchildren for the first time. While she would pay for herself she decided I would act as travel agent and tour guide. What could I say to the woman who gave me life? The dates were set.
I arrived in London Heathrow and transferred to Terminal Five on its opening day. What chaos!! My hour stopover turned into seven hours. My luggage arrived a week later and was so wet and smelly much of my clothing had to be thrown away. Then my mother had a fall and so we had to postpone the flight to Atlanta. As I had to stay and take care of her I missed my trip to see the Masters Golf Tournament in nearby Augusta. Then to crown it all eight inches of snow fell. Talk about “Shit happens”!!!
Luckily I could fit into my mother’s snow boots and heavy jacket. As I trudged to the shops (I was too scared to risk driving) I remembered how beautiful falling snow is. I recalled the gentle blanket effect it had, muffling traffic noises. I felt again the tingling in my nose, the crisp air, waves in the snowdrifts. I remembered fun in the snow as a child with family and friends. I remembered the joy. My mother felt unable to travel and so we spent time together just hanging out. We talked, I met more of her friends, I joined in her life. I had never had this opportunity before.
After a while she insisted I leave her and continue my trip. We put the tickets on hold for when she was fit again. I had been in Atlanta two weeks when my mother telephoned and told me she was now fit to travel. What could I do? I went back to get her. Anticipating chaos at Heathrow, awful weather, stress, the cost of another airline ticket, feeling far from positive I set out.
We had a seamless trip. Indeed it was easier traveling with my mother in a wheelchair than it usually was. The service was wonderful. We finally arrived at the Atlanta house and opened the door. My mother was instantly engulfed by her great grandchildren squealing with delight. She burst into tears. I burst into tears. My niece (their mother) burst into tears. My niece’s husband burst into tears. After a while a voice behind me said “Where shall I put the luggage Ma’am?” There was our taxi driver, a huge African American, a complete stranger standing with tears pouring down his face. He was joining in the joy of our very special moment.
“Shit happens” but do not let it get you down. You can find joy everywhere if you look closely even after enduring the most unimaginable grief. You can make it happen if you try hard enough.
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