After losing my son Emmett nearly two years ago, I couldn’t comprehend the idea of “joy.” How could I possibly ever find delight or pleasure in the same activities and thoughts that I once found so enjoyable?
I felt such overwhelming guilt. Survivor’s guilt. Why couldn’t it have been me instead of my son? I didn’t feel I was worthy enough to continue on this journey of life since a piece of me had died. My heart was in irreparable pieces. I felt so shattered, like a fragile shard of glass.
Joy vs. Shame
But then one day as I was driving, a few months after the loss, I found myself listening to the radio. I was just mindlessly hearing the song’s lyrics in my head and thoughtlessly making my way down the road. I started blurting out some sugary pop tune at the top of my lungs. I was at center-stage in the driver’s seat of my car. Something that before the loss, I would do almost daily with such joy and enthusiasm.
When I got to my destination, I felt so strange and shameful that I burst into tears. I had just lost my son. Why would I possibly be singing some giddy tune of love and happiness? I have no right to do that. I’m felt I was an awful mother.
Find Ways to Live and Enjoy Life
Months later, my best friend since kindergarten, who has seen me on my happiest days and on my lowest, reached out to me. She saw how I struggled with finding joy in the world, in everyday life. She messaged me: “Try to find ways to live and enjoy life. Emmett would want that.”
She was (and still is) absolutely right.
I won’t lie. There are days where I still recollect upon losing my baby on that April night and the stinging sorrow that I will never be able to hold him again. But, as the time passes, I’ve learned from those painful moments, and have come to take comfort in the seconds that do put a smile on my face or demonstrate how much love and compassion still remains in my heart. I notice the little things in life and I’m thankful for them, joyful for them.
You Deserve Joy
I’ve been reading Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B.” It’s been a true relief to hear someone else have the exact same feelings as I do about learning to find joy again and living your life after the loss of a loved one.
Related: The Change He’s Made In Me
She writes: “Whether you see joy as a discipline, an act of defiance, a luxury, or a necessity, it is something everyone deserves. Joy allows us to go on living and loving and being there for others.”
I know right now these words can seem hollow and unattainable to some. But, you truly do deserve joy. Your life filled with happiness doesn’t mean you are forgetting your child or moving on without them. You are moving forward on this continuing road and still carrying his or her memory with you, each and every step.
Shortly after my own epiphany of what the significance of joy can mean after a loss, I wrote: “Dwelling in the past often times can be an easier path to take because it’s what you know. It’s that other road, that road where there are unknowns. That can be scary, uncharted territory but it can also be a wealth of opportunity, and if you don’t travel down that road you’ll never know what you missed.”
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