I once heard Robin Roberts describe a term called “happy sorrow” that was used in her family to describe the feelings that someone has after losing a beloved. In the movie Shadowlands, the same concept is described as “pain filled joy.” It’s the idea that we can be sad and happy at the same time. We are sad we lost someone precious to us and we are also gladdened by the way their presence graced our lives. In some ways, sorrow is a small price to pay for the experience of loving and being loved by someone so essential to us.
This week I met Rowena, a woman whose husband died five years ago. Discovering that my husband had died ten years ago, she wondered aloud if things would get better. “I still feel so fragile and sad. Does this change over time?”
It’s really a myth to believe that everything or everyone we lose engenders nothing but sadness, sorrow, and even despair. Feelings, even very intense ones, are never permanent. Instead, grief while not linear, cycles through periods of intensity like waves in an ocean, calm on one day by slackened winds, and ferocious on another by a passing storm. Yet like the passing storm, even the darkest of hours and the deepest of grief has periods of relief and usually lessens over time.
Does this happen because we love the one we lost less? I don’t think so. I think it occurs because our gratitude for the person we lost often deepens with time elapsed and because our perspective shifts. Sooner or later, we realize that our heartfelt loss simply connects us to a whole other world out there of fellow grief survivors who like us, are sojourning foreign territory. We understand that we are not on this trip alone – we are companioned by a host of other people putting one foot in front of the other, just as we are, in coping with the unraveling of life as we knew it and venturing into a new time and space.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
Today I will be mindful of my breath to calm my monkey mind and let my worries about the future evaporate. I will reach out to others to help me focus on the present.