When was the last time you laughed? Like really laughed, the kind of laughter that has you doubled over, with tears coming out of your eyes or until you had to pee – when was the last time you really laughed and your heart was overwhelmed with joy? Laughter, it really is so good for our soul. I have always been drawn to joy and laughter, it’s something I loved about my husband and one of the first things that attracted me to him. I highly prioritize humor; my kids are growing up laughing at each other and themselves. I love when I can make an entire room laugh by being witty, ridiculous, telling a well-timed joke or all three at once.
THE DAY JOY LEFT ME
I used to live in downtown San Jose. I had the cutest apartment in a great building. From my balcony I could see air traffic. The international airport wasn’t far from where I lived in the early 2000s. Most of us recall September 11th and the days following. Our country and her people were wounded. One of my biggest memories of those days was how quiet my apartment was. I had gotten used to the fly over traffic of airplanes, and for 4 days nothing happened, it was quiet. Weeks into loss – I noticed a strange quiet, too. In the midst of all the crazy – laughter and joy had left me. I remember flying to our home state for Jeff’s services. 5 days into loss, while sitting with my children on a Southwest flight from Arizona to California a thought I’d never had before came to me: “This plane crashing right now would solve this misery.” The plane clearly didn’t go down and after the dust settled and I was home alone for the first time in what seemed to be weeks – I really noticed how empty my life felt without Jeff and without joy. I knew my primal thought on the plane weeks before couldn’t become a pattern or I’d never survive this new life.
FINDING JOY AGAIN
Joy has always been one of my secret weapons. The Bible says it is “strength” and boy did I need some of that. So, I set out to be intentional about getting her back. I knew that the vacuum of loss had sucked all the joy out of my life and though I couldn’t change what happened or even the deep grief caused by death I was hopeful that I could do something. I set out on a journey to find joy and gratitude every day. I know, it sounds crazy like I was attempting the impossible, but I knew in my spirit deep in my heart the path to true joy was finding laughter and gratitude. On routinely looking for these things.
Honestly though, the first few days and weeks of being grateful and looking for joy were hard. At the end of the some of those days I would come up empty and sometimes I was only grateful that my kids and I were still breathing. Loss is difficult because it is so consuming. As I kept looking for joy, I started to build a new habit teaching myself and my eyes to focus on other things in life besides loss – because though something tragic happened – there was still lots of good to be discovered. After sometime I remember having deep gratitude that someone called me to check in , or that someone blessed us with movie tickets. I would post things with a hashtag of #findingourjoy or #joywasfound. After a steady diet of looking for joy, I found her everywhere – not to say that the grief journey suddenly was gone – it wasn’t.
I realized that both joy and pain could be lived in the same day, even in the same hour. I learned I had the power to change my mind and my thinking – I could actually renew my mind. I found laughter, true joy and gratitude. I also still cried for all that was lost and all my dreams unfulfilled. The baby steps of looking for joy led to true joy. Training my eyes to see good, actually led me to amazing opportunities I would have never had if I hadn’t become a widow. My greatest hope for anyone who has dealt with loss is to be open to finding joy again. You have to be purposeful about it – but a day will come where joy overtakes you and completely takes you by storm and you’ll smile – honestly I hope you laugh until you spit and pee a little.
Life is better when we find our happy again and we start to believe there is so much more “happy” to be found. Find your joy, she maybe hiding like a crazy person but if you look you’ll find her.