How to Experience the Joy of Grief
Grief has the potential to expand the inner terrain of us…
Our life stories open to where we are stuck. When we are grieving, we are held captive by trauma. There are gaps in the places where our hearts were torn. So our minds keep going back in an attempt to fill a void, but it never happens. It never gets filled.
While grief may play out differently in each person’s life, it has one unifying aspect — our world is no longer the same without the loved one we lost. The disconnect leaves us feeling isolated, lonely, and disengaged, giving way to depression and anxiety. Nothing seems to help.
While grief doesn’t know any boundaries, it is easier to justify its intrusion into our everyday life when we are depleted from too much stress, too little sleep, or not enough to eat. But grief is a prankster that likes to throw us off guard by sneaking up on us when we least expect it. We feel like we are going crazy to the point where we can’t even explain it to those around us.
Like any trauma, to get through the aftermath of the overwhelming experience, we have to live through it. The healing process takes time and not linear time. What seems like an endless loop of suffering is paving a new path by taking the same steps forward and then back — forward and back, until we have made way for our next step.
None of us are given a free pass from pain. It is part of the life experience. I suppose the question that begs an answer is: How do we function with the emotional pain of grief when it feels like it has ransacked our lives, pillaging anything good?
Grief is an unwanted invitation to expand our world. Not as in a person who travels the globe and is considered worldly. It has the potential to expand the inner terrain of us. That may sound like a patronizing opinion, but it’s not meant to be. If grief rips down all our defenses, it allows us to integrate the orphaned parts of us we have either not developed or disowned — during grief we need all of us to survive.
Integration is not getting over grief, but taking our life, riddled with pain, and moving it into a larger room. For example, more space gives us the ability to contain sad and angry feelings without removing joy and peace. For some reason we were taught life was a zero sum game that made opposites mutually exclusive. If you are sad, there is no room for joy. If you are angry, there is no place for peace, and on and on. A fully integrated life is not about playing out the pieces and parts separate from each other.
Joy is different than happiness. Where happiness is a feeling connected to something outside of us, joy is a connection with life that leaves us feeling gratitude for life’s simplest, seemingly insignificant moments.
“My son used to laugh a hearty laugh that was contagious. I miss him every minute. It is his laugh that I miss the most. Is that odd? When he laughed, I knew the world was right.” ~ MBC
Grace is the peace that surpasses understanding when we contain the seemingly contradictory emotional states that are available to us at one time. It is a moment of being connected to something greater than ourselves where we know that all is right, even when nothing appears to be right in our world.
Sofia Wellman is a filmmaker, author, and speaker. While she travels the country for her work, her home base is Atlanta. Her most recent creative works are the films, What’s Love Got To Do With It and Death as Life, and the book, If the Shoe Fits, Go Barefoot. You can contact Sofia through her website, sofiawellman.com.