Written by Susan Jacobson “Bye Mom, love you”. Those are the last words I heard from my precious 22-year-old son, Ben, on February 8, 2021. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. It was how he ended every phone call to me, and those words had always been very...
Joy as a Lifejacket
After the death of a child, many parents struggle to find joy in ways they did before their loss. Many wonder if they will ever experience happiness again. For them, it may be hard to hear that they have every right to seek and revel in joy after loss. Many parents don’t allow themselves permission to feel or express joy, but we want to remind them that it is okay. Grief and joy can coexist. This blog post from Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support shares five suggestions on finding joy.
By: Rose Carlson
I have cried so much this year
That I’ve almost drowned.
So, when you see me smile
Don’t think I’m no longer in the water—
Understand that my joy is a lifejacket.
~ Elisabet Velasquez
As I was perusing Instagram early one morning, the above quote showed up in my feed. I do not know who Elisabet Velasquez is, but that little poem resonated with my heart in a profound way. I thought about it for days. I thought about times in my own life when this applied, but I also thought about our bereaved parents and how they often feel as if they will never experience joy again after the death of their baby. It made me think about parents who, as they do begin to feel some joy in their life again, feel guilty, like they are betraying the love for their baby in some way.
I do know, though, that seeking out things that bring you comfort and joy when you are grieving can ease the pain of your broken heart. Is it easy to do? No. It most definitely is not; perhaps it will even feel a bit fake at first, like you are forcing it, not really feeling that deep-down-in-your-soul kind of joy.
You may wonder what the point is. You may wonder if you are better off not forcing joy upon yourself. But keep in mind that while you may not need a lifejacket when you are swimming in calm waters, you are grateful to be wearing one when you are struggling and feeling like you are drowning. I have found that the times I am struggling the most are the most important times to find pleasure in something, anything.
It can feel like Mission Impossible to find joy, beauty, and anything fun, especially when you are grieving so deeply. It can take time to get to the point where you even want to find some happy moments because your soul may be so bogged down that you can barely get out of your pajamas and drag yourself to work.
It can be difficult to look for joy and beauty when so many other things in your life seem to be suffering from neglect, when you feel as if you are drowning in grief and sadness.
Try to look at these despairing situations as times when a lifejacket can ease your struggling and keep you from going under. Inviting in things that can bring you a glimpse of joy can help keep you afloat.
You may not believe this, but what starts out feeling forced and fake will become genuine eventually. When you begin to feel true joy again, it will be sweeter because it has been so hard to come by. Does feeling some joy take away the sorrow you feel because of the great loss you have experienced? No. I wish I could say it does, but it does not. However, what that life jacket will do is make life less of a struggle. It will provide you with some moments of cheer during an otherwise bleak time.
“How can I find joy?” you may be wondering.