Finding joy from grief

When was the last time you felt complete, unadulterated joy?

Not sure?

Let me guess, you’ve also been running away from grief.

As Tracey Cleantis said when I interviewed her for my book; ‘not grieving will affect your ability to be happy because it’s like anaesthetic. And when you take an anaesthetic it doesn’t just numb the childless piece, everything else will be affected. When you numb, you numb.’

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I spent years stuffing everything I didn’t want to feel into a box. In went sadness, grief, anger, disappointment, etc, etc. You’ve got the picture.

I realise now that I also anaesthetized all the good things in my life, so I also couldn’t feel happiness and joy. And yes I know I was going through challenging times, but that wasn’t it, so many things that, in the past would have brought me joy, didn’t. It was like I’d lost all sense of feeling.

Do you recognise this?

You numb everything

I’ve written about numbing before and quoted Brené Brown saying when you numb the dark, you numb the light.‘ Intellectually I knew it to be true. And now I absolutely know that it is.

In the last year or so I’ve been learning how to feel and in my last blog I told you how I’d been struck by a wave of grief, and this time I leaned into it and felt it all.

Feeling grief brought more joy into my life

And since then I’ve been feeling incredibly happy and joyful and have had several bouts of hysterical giggling. One was at the start of a Cranio Sacral Therapy session, we were both laughing and then I just couldn’t stop for what seemed like ten minutes. The best thing is I have no idea why I was laughing, there was something inside that wanted to emerge, so I allowed it. I’ve done the same in my yoga lessons; again I have no idea why, especially as I was in discomfort at the time.

If you imagine emotions range in intensity from zero to a hundred, I used to go to a maximum of maybe plus and minus thirty. I started by extending the negative range and the by product is that the positive range has extended too.

And more creativity

At the same time I’ve also had a burst of creativity, not just writing but also sewing. I have no idea whether this is normal, or just me, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

Joy comes mainly in small moments

I’ve also realised that, yes there is joy in life’s big moments and there’s so much more in the everyday small moments. You just have to stop and pause.

For example I just took a break from my desk to get a coffee. As I was waiting for the machine I looked out of the window into the garden, I noticed a busy blackbird, the beautiful Acer turning red for the Autumn, I heard the wind chimes which reminded me of our travels and I recalled times we’d sat in the garden with friends. On the way back to my desk I recalled the shop where I bought my mug and spent a moment really savouring the taste. The simple act of making a coffee brought so many moments of joy, because I was willing to pause.

Feeling joy can be a hard too

Joy can be hard to feel because it requires you to be vulnerable, to open up and, let’s face it it’s just not British.

I experienced this recently too; one moment I felt really happy, realising how much I love my life and the adventures I’m having. And before I could enjoy those wonderful feelings, into my head popped the words ‘but how long will this last?’ and as a result the joy dissipated quickly.

I realised this is what Brené Brown calls foreboding Joy, where thinking things like, ‘this is too good to be true, how long can it last’ stop you from fully feeling joy. The antidote, Brené says is gratitude, and quickly acknowledging how grateful I was for so many things in my life enabled me to soften into the moment of joy and feel it so much more.

I was going write about three things I’ve learned but in the end there’s only one way to finish and it’s with a question.

What about you, do you want more joy?

You know what to do.  

Which aspects of my story resonated with you? Please leave your comment below (you don’t have to use your own name).

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3 thoughts on “Finding joy from grief”

  1. ‘When you numb, you numb’ – everything. So true, Lesley.

    And yes, there is so much joy to be found in small things, but we do need to pause long enough to notice them – as I discovered recently when whizzy-bizzy me had a fall and was forced to abandon the frantic pace for a while. Shocking to see how much I’ve been taking for granted or just skimming over.

    I love the Khalil Gibran quote.

    Thanks for sharing.


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