You might remember when I painted this one and shared it in early April? At that time I hoped that the world would have sorted a few things out by the end of summer, and obviously that didn’t happen. But through it all, I try to share happy things when I can. Is there such a thing as “Happy Grief”? In my experience, yes, there is.
When we share hardships collectively as humans traveling in the same time line (those of us currently alive on this planet, spanning four or five generations across the globe) we may feel a special connection with humanity that is unique; and known only by people who experience the crisis together. Of course we may need to be “on the same side”, however we may define that to be. Connection is based on kinship, and that doesn’t happen with those who rule in dominion over us, or with those we perceive as in alignment, enforcement, or loyal to the ideology of those we are oppressed by. We do not bond with our abusers, but we develop intimacy with fellow travelers on the same journey. This is part of the “Happy” side of grief. Feeling close to fellow humans makes us happy.
Another aspect of “Happy Grief” is due to the extreme emotions. When our lows are very low, when our spirits try to counter-correct and restore balance, we swing to the other extreme- very high; happiness, joy, elation, bursts of creativity, optimism, and overall confidence that “everything’s gonna be alright”. We may feel surprisingly nostalgic and have vivid flashbacks to times, places, and people from years ago, or even many years ago. We may then take an abrupt turn in mood, as we remember people we’ve lost, and a world that used to be, but is no more.
During these extreme mood swings, we may land somewhere in the middle, but it’s not an ordinary kind of middle. It’s the middle that happens between highs and lows of crisis grief. In this sacred space, we find the greatest treasure in “Happy Grief”. We feel certain of what is most important in life. We know the secret of happiness, and it’s not things or work or relationships that we do not choose. It’s a secret that many elderly people already know: happiness comes from doing what we want to do.
When we see time as precious, vulnerable, and fleeting; when we feel that our future is uncertain and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed; when we can’t trust that the world we know today will still be there tomorrow… we live differently. We live with intention. We choose to spend time with the people we truly love, and have little patience for time wasted on those we do not enjoy being with. We structure our days differently. We are more willing to do productive work like gardening, baking, or making something homemade without thinking we should be doing work that pays an income or we should be doing nothing at all. Why work if there’s no pay check? Because productive work is happy work, and when we do something productive we are often rewarded with adventure, a pleasant outcome, and connection with others. These things make humans happy.
When we live life with intention, instead of scurrying along each day on a schedule to get each thing done, every item checked off a list, prioritizing meeting the expectations of others, putting paid work ahead of anything else- then we start to live on our own terms. We remember who we really are, and we may wonder why we squandered so much of our life trying to please others and doing what was expected instead of what we want to do. We may wish we had “one more day” with someone we lost. We may feel overwhelmed with regret or pangs of longing.
As the grief emotions sweep over us, we can channel these highs and lows into something good that improves our lives forever. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Be that person you’ve always wished you could be. “Live as if there’s no tomorrow. Love as if we’re on borrowed time.” It’s not just a catchy phrase or song lyrics, it’s real. And we know it’s real when we are in a state of “Happy Grief”. That is what I meant by Happy Grief. Because, when we live as if there’s no tomorrow, we finally learn how to be happy. May we take this precious awareness into a post-grief season, and never forget. But, of course, the grief season must end before the healing can begin. I will pray for deliverance, and I will pray for YOU. I do not need to know who you are to do this. Prayer is powerful. I need only to care. God bless you and your families.
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