Is it possible to find small moments of joy when we are grieving, or when we are living through a pandemic?
Each year when I enter into the portal of Leah’s death, it always takes me back to November of 2000.
I remember how I felt when the police came into my office to escort me to the hospital.
I remember how I felt on the drive to the hospital, and when I found out what happened.
I remember seeing her for the first time, and my uncontrollable shaking.
I remember how I would grasp on to each gossamer thin thread of hope that she would return to us.
I remember leaving the hospital for the last time.
I remember every detail of that time. I think that is why I am reluctant to enter this time each year; I know I will be taken back to events that I wish were not a part of my memory.
They don’t come in linear progression. They come in flashes throughout the days and weeks leading up to November 8th.
This year they are tempered with a new understanding of my life and with a new relationship with Leah.
Each year when I review these occurrences; I receive new insights. Each year I am able to unravel more and more of the pain and anguish that still lives somewhere in my body.
This year I’ve been noticing the similarities of living in 2020 and my grief journey, and grief in general.
I’ve noticed that the stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, are some of the same feelings we’ve been feeling throughout the past 7 months.
These stages aren’t linear; we don’t finish with one before we move on to the next one. (I used to think that was true before I traveled my own journey.)
You may find yourself spiraling back around to these feelings time and time again. What I found for myself is that when I allow the feelings to be here and allow myself to feel them, they shift; they are not the same each time they come back around. That’s what I mean when I say that each year my experience of this time of the year is different.
We can look at the grief we are feeling this year the same way. Look at all of the stages of grief, and at where and when you’ve experienced them this year.
Back in March, we were in denial, surely this wasn’t serious, and it would blow over in a few weeks. And then the whole world closed up, and our lives completely changed in an instant in ways we could never imagine.
That’s what happened to me when Leah died, that’s what happened to you when you experience a death, whether it is the death of a loved one, or another kind of loss, like the loss of a job, a relationship, a way of life, your identity, or the ability to have coffee with a friend.
Think of how you cycled through these emotions since March, how you are still cycling through them.
What have you learned about yourself?
Where have you grown?
What have you discovered no longer serves you?
The difficult times of our lives provide doorways into some of our greatest transformations. Each time you experience one of these stages, and all of the emotions that come with them, how have you changed?
What are you still holding on to?
What do you wish was the same as it was before?
These are all questions that I encountered as I traveled my grief journey. When we know that we are experiencing grief, we know that there are ways to meet it, and we can find a way to move through it in our own unique way. Everyone grieves in their own way, there is no one right way to grieve, and there is no one right way to process 2020.
David Kessler, a renowned grief expert has just written a book called Finding Meaning, The 6th Stage of Grief. It is possible to find meaning, purpose, and even joy again after loss. Sometimes we find the breadcrumbs of meaning, and it’s enough to give us the faith to continue to cycle through our feelings yet again.
It’s been almost 20 years since Leah died. This is the 20th time I have cycled through my own experiences. I still am brought to my knees at times. I will never get over the death of my daughter.
I will continue to honor her and myself by saying yes to where life is calling me in each moment. Even in a pandemic we are being called. Even in a pandemic we can find meaning. Even as we grieve we can unearth the jewels that are the blessings and grace that give us the courage to continue.
To find the blessings and grace that lead to Joy.