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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old joy, new joy

A fellow blogger brought up a good question today:

Should I still feel so numb to things that used to bring me so much joy?

I think I’m safe in saying we all have a degree of numbness still with us, actively effecting at least one part of our lives. All of us. For her, the question regarded the holidays, which she (prior to her loss) had always loved.

I have always loved Christmas time as well. It’s always been my favorite holiday. I shop months in advance and put up my tree the day after turkey day. I love the lights, the sounds, the smells and the fact that everyone seems in an all-around nicer mood.

That first Christmas after our loss was the worst, of course. My nerves were shot. I took the tree down the day after Christmas and felt huge relief at not having to look at it for one more second. Last year was better and, so far, so is this year. I'd say my holiday spirit is back. I’m so relieved to say that. Some of my joy has come back, and it’s joy I can share with my family.

However, everyone is different.

What I haven't gotten back is my appreciation for everyday beauty. I used to stop and look at sunsets, admire the mountains and be constantly humbled and in awe at how tiny it all made me feel.

There is a place less than 30 minutes from here where we pick berries every fall. There is literally nothing there but a valley rimmed with mountains and beautiful land that stretches farther than you can see. I used to go every year to pick berries, enjoy the beauty and sunshine, let my mind be free and to quietly absorb my surroundings.

Now it’s not like that for me anymore. I go there and the silence grates on my nerves. I don’t see stretches of valley coated in grass, flowers and low bushes of all colors. I see flat land filled with plant life that will turn brown and die soon. The mountains aren’t majestic, they’re just mountains and really not all that impressive.

It’s not just my favorite haunts that have been tainted. Beautiful skies, rain streaming down a window and quiet winter mornings do nothing for me anymore. All of those little moments I used to fill up with beautiful things suddenly mean nothing to me because they don't seem beautiful anymore.

I hoped it would come back. I told myself the joy I had before would come back. Two years later, it has not. And just tonight I am realizing something.

I think that part of me may have died. Forever.

Somehow my heart knows that it’s gone. Just gone. Not even a shadow of that part of who I was remains inside me. And that’s really sad to me. Here I sat telling myself I will heal eventually and get some of my old self back…and it’s not gonna happen. I feel that deep down to my bones to be the truth

So that caused me to ask myself, How could this happen?

We all know that we aren’t the same people after we’ve experienced the kind of loss that we have. We’re changed and have to get to know ourselves again (imagine my surprise to still be learning things about myself two years later!). It makes sense to me that what brought us happiness before just might not do the trick now. I’m not sure if it’s targeted by what means the most to us, what we found the most comfort in, our happy place or what. But I think we can all expect our joys in life to be affected. We’re seeing everything through new eyes.

Here's what I've learned - the new part of me appreciates a good cup of coffee, early mornings to myself and short lines at the grocery store. Literal things. I’m grateful for the things I have in my hands, not the whimsical I see in my mind. I don’t see Brayden as an angel over me, I don’t see fluffy clouds and think of Heaven and I don’t always think of him when I see butterflies. The old me absolutely would have. It’s a little sad, but that’s just the way it is. I guess it’s a good thing my empathy is also pretty much gone, otherwise I’d feel a little sorry for myself because I know how all that sounds.

Maybe, with more time, I’ll regain some of this back. Maybe I won’t. If not, I’ll focus on what does bring me happiness and hold on tight. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now, at this very moment.

Nature’s beauty doesn’t work for me anymore. Fine. I’ll work with what does. I’ll find what does and explore that more. I'm going to let go of what I think or expect will bring me joy and open myself to new avenues of happiness.

For my friend, and anyone else who is struggling to find joy this holiday, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could be more insightful. I wish I could share some of the Christmas excitement I have with you. I wish we weren’t in this club…but at the same time, I’m glad I have friends like you in my life.

Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm... this must hit a soft spot for me as tears well up in my eyes. I can totally relate. And right now I'm noticing I'm *starting* to feel some excitement/happiness/joy around Christmas time, but not the way I used to. It sounds like I was similar to you - I used to LOVE this time of year. The child in me LOVES giving and receiving gifts, and then there's the lights, the food, the time with family and friends... and now, it's different. Just not quite as joyful. Not yet at least.

    I love your idea of letting go, and seeing where you experience joy now. We are different people after our losses, so it makes sense to me that we would find joy in different places.

    Love to you and yours this holiday season!