Accepting Joy

Ever since Lynn died in March, and we went into lock-down because of Covid-19, things that bring me joy have been hard to come by. Even the things I used to enjoy were now lifeless activities. That is, of course, one way depression affects a person. I was so fixated on the loss of my wife, it bled into all aspects of my existence. It poisoned everything. I felt like I was always on the brink of tears. The smallest issue would lay waste to my fragile façade of a smile and crush my heart. I know I’m melodramatic, but honestly, that’s the way it felt to me at the time.

Recently, someone asked me, “What brings you joy?”

I couldn’t answer him. I wanted to say, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing brings me joy anymore,” but that is defeatist and pathetic, and even if I was defeated and pitiful, I didn’t want to sound that way.

Finally, I said, “I have some things that bring me a degree of comfort. I haven’t actually been joyful since before Lynn died.”

I remember feeling committed to NOT having any joy in my life, even though I enjoyed the things that I referred to as “comforting,” my mind didn’t want to unlock and accept the joy, whether I admitted it or not. That was a strange thing because I was denying being happy, even though it was right there.

I went away and thought about it. I asked another person what brings them joy. They have also suffered a severe loss, though different from my own. He said, “Spending time with my dog makes me happy. I enjoy our nightly facetime calls, and I enjoy spending time with my son.”

Wait a minute. I have two dogs that I dearly love. The absolute delight Jasper exhibits when we play does make me happy.  Jojo’s goofy Beagle smile is adorable. My son is the world to me, and I enjoy my friendships and family, too. I enjoy playing games over the internet while facetiming my sister-in-law and her family. I do have things in my life that bring me joy. As simple a thought as that is, it was a revelation to me.

It was at that very moment I realized I could miss Lynn and still have happiness, too. The two were not mutually exclusive. Yes, missing Lynn was profoundly sad, and I miss her so much it hurts. I can also do things that make me happy, and that’s okay. It’s okay to feel both sad and happy in the same day, hour, even minute. It’s okay.

This new outlook made my previously meaningless day much more fulfilling. I regained my focus and started accomplishing work assignments I was putting off. I tackled a couple of small projects around the house. I started cooking more. Not just microwaving a frozen dinner; I was cooking. And I acknowledged when I was happy, and just realizing that made me even more pleased!

Now, I wrote this to help me get clarity on the situation, but I hope it’s helpful to someone out there going through their personalized, nightmarish version of this. My heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry. Take all the time you need to grieve; there is no time limit. Be kind to yourself, and when you can, identify the things and people in your life that bring you joy, and acknowledge them. I’d love to hear what they are if you’re willing to share.


2 thoughts on “Accepting Joy

  1. Mitch
    your pitch on Joy has had a profound effect on me — right now.
    My loss was May 2018.
    Have I written anything since? No. Except lists to do.
    Painted? No.
    Yes I did manage to fall down a flight of stairs last year. All ribs broken, shoulder bone now skewed outwards, 18 stitches in leg. BUT…
    I am OK.
    I could have been not OK. I can look after myself.
    I have a dog. Caspar. Demanding, bossy — he makes me smile.
    So now, I will write what does bring me joy. & do the stuff that matters to me.
    Thank you

    • Oh Kate, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sorry about your terrible accident. And after all that, here you are, still standing. You are taking care of yourself. That is admirable, and I bet I would love Caspar. If you are anything like me, and I think you are, writing is how I get the thoughts out of my head so I can look at them clearly. It’s how I lance the wounds to get the infection out. And one day, I’ll return to writing fiction.

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