This week, my friend asked me over text, what brings you Calm and Peace? Joy? What fills your cup? My first negative thought was nothing brings me Joy, do I have Joy? How can I have Joy ever again? I moved on to the next item on her list, Joy wasn’t easy to dissect. Calm? I have found some calmness and peace in different ways, the first advice I give to any newly grieving person, is to find a way to drown out the noise in your head. I found it by walking and moving, and it truly saved my life.
There is a science behind moving and mental health, but all I can say is that if you are in this place with me or you have a friend in grief, walk with them as much as possible, pull them out of their bed in the PJs if need be, and walk the neighborhood to start. Let them cry and walk, talk, or just be. It brings some calm. I have also found it with journaling, and by being on or near water of any kind. It calms the negative thoughts.
Laughter was something at first I never thought I would hear from my body again. I cried so much the first two years after my loss that I made my eyelid muscles weak. I had no idea you could even do that to yourself. I couldn’t even wear eye makeup for two years, there was no point. I found laughter though when my oldest daughter and I were gifted comedy tickets within the first year. At first, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Two sad people at a comedy show? It ended up being a healing night, we laughed and cried and laughed again at Iliza Shlesinger and reminisced over the Britney Spears music playing before and after the show. I remember feeling relieved to laugh, and surprised that I could, I felt somewhat guilty for laughing. I found my laughter in comedy and even now if I’m feeling a bit grumpy I will search for stand-up. It’s a form of escapism, like reading, but sometimes not being in your sadness is ok. It’s also ok to be ok!
What fills my cup is easy, it’s also what drains my cup, but it’s doing things for others and if I do things in my daughter’s memory it mends my broken heart stitch by stitch. My absolutely insane primary care provider has this saying, “feeling nervous? Then acts of service!” A lot of the things she says make me mentally throw up, but she has a point with this one. Little things like collecting books as a memorial tribute since Mikenna loved to read, and donating them to a local charity that gives books to children in need, fills my cup. Driving around and passing out tins of turkey dinners to our local homeless in tents, (makes me nervous) but also fills my cup. Everyone deserves a hot turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.
What about Joy? Can you have Joy when there is an undercurrent of sadness? My oldest daughter graduated from college 6 months after she lost her sister. I was so proud and happy filled with Joy, but I was crying tears of sadness I would never see her sister graduate and her sister wasn’t there with her. It was the first time I considered if I would ever feel joy again. Would every special occasion be clouded with sadness, would I be able to feel happiness/joy and if I could, would I let myself feel it without feeling guilty?
I searched my memory for similar situations I had ever heard of. All I could come up with was the night before Jesus died. He had to be both joyful to be going home and sad to be leaving his closest friends. His disciples had to be feeling sad to know that they would not ever be sitting having a meal with him again, but joyful for the knowledge of prophesy he was fulfilling? Not that I know what anyone was feeling in those moments, but I am guessing there were conflicting emotions.
Michelle Obama, during her Becoming tour, talked about giving up her successful career so that she could support her husband’s path. That must have been difficult. She must have felt joyful and a part of her was sad to leave it. She had worked incredibly hard to get to where she was. Can we have two conflicting emotions at once?
I had the opportunity to possibly punish a person that was somewhat legally negligable in my daughter’s death. I needed somewhere to direct this sunami of rage I had welled up in me. The problem was I was also stating her non-profit, and it was filling my cup in a different way. I found on more than one occasion I could not live in both worlds, I could not be pursuing legal revenge at the same time I was trying to build her legacy. I chose to let it go, after 2 years of getting to where I could legally aim my anger at someone, I let, it, go.
This year, I have let myself have moments of joy. I have stopped feeling guilty for having them. I have swam in the ocean, I have laughed with my childhood BFF, and I have let myself experience moments of happiness. I have also sobbed on her grave, sobbed over her pictures, and mourned the fact I will not hold her children as her childhood friends are now getting engaged and some are having babies. If you live here with me, I want you to really hear me say, it really is ok to sometimes be ok.
I was told by a brilliant professor recently that we cannot really multitask. I was offended because I thought myself a professional multi-tasker. He informed me that we just move from one thing to the next quickly. There were studies to prove it. You actually cannot do two things at once. I believe it is the same with joy and sadness. We have to reconcile our loss. Reconcile means to live with both, it doesn’t mean we have to feel these emotions at the same time, but we need to be ok feeling joy, because trust me, sadness hasn’t left, it’s just waiting its turn.