Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Courage of joy after loss

joy after loss

Before my stillborn and miscarriage, I was a genuinely happy and spirited person.  Smiles easily came to my face and laughter rolled off my tongue.  In fact, I have a hard time even looking at pictures of myself before loss because, well…I look so happy.  After loss, that spark to my spirit dimmed and being happy wasn’t natural.  Now that I know death and loss, my once joyous spirit has been replaced with fear and anxiety of more loss.

Since the death of my stillborn daughter Quinn, I have been on a journey to heal.  Part of this journey has been to reintroduce the emotions of joy and happiness back into my life.  Why can’t I be that happy and spirited person that I once was?  I’ve welcomed gratitude and kindness (and how grateful I am for what I do have!), but why not happiness?  Joy seems even further out of reach. 

I had an epiphany when I read the words of one of my favorite people, BrenĂ© Brown, in her book Daring Greatly.  She explains that joy is our most vulnerable emotion.  People are scared to feel joy because they are scared it will be taken away from them – yanked from under them like a rug.  It is common for people to rehearse grief and tragedy in their minds instead of letting themselves experience joy.  She gives the example that things may be going well in someone’s life but instead of enjoying that feeling, he or she often thinks: Oh no, I bet something terrible is about to happen. 

I think bereaved parents can especially understand how joy is vulnerable.  In fact, I think this perfectly captures my struggle to let these emotions back into my life.   The vulnerability of joy is exactly what happened to us as bereaved parents.  We made, grew, nurtured, and did everything we could to protect our child.  However, miscarriage – stillbirth – SIDS – whatever the case may be, shredded our hopes and dreams for the future. 

How are we to experience happiness and joy again?  How can we not be scared that any future happiness and joy will be ripped away from us?  It already happened once.  Or twice.  Or more. 

BrenĂ© Brown hits the nail on the head when she connects joy to vulnerability.  As a bereaved parent, letting myself experience joy is one of the most courageous things I’ve done in my healing.  Since I feel so vulnerable when experiencing joy, I don’t think I’ll ever be that spirited person that I once was, but I think there is progress to be made. 

However, as bereaved parents we can take little moments to be brave and courageous, to try to experience joy.  It is scary.  It even feels unnatural.  But, what if we were to lose all joy from our lives forever?  As bereaved parents, we know that nothing can prepare ourselves for grief and tragedy.  Nothing.  So instead of always preparing for the worst, can we honor the lives of the ones we love and lost by being courageous and experiencing joy?  Not all at once of course.  But when you find the moment, let yourself smile, and reintroduce yourself to a moment of joy.  

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