I’ve encountered death. Not to be mistaken for experience but I’ve met her. I met her at her very best when she peacefully lifted my ninety plus year old, life well lived auntie to her rest. I met her ripping the soul out of my eighteen year friend whose body laid in a trash receptacle for days before being found. I met her in sickness and sorrow. Time and time, she came to family members, friends, co workers and lovers. Sometimes she was kind and forgiving, sometimes she was reckless and sloppy; most times, she’s unapologetic.
By grade school, had you asked me how I felt about death, I would have told you I was used to it. Coming from a large family, death and funerals were a quarterly occasion. So much so that by 16 years old, I had a regimen for grieving and remembering. It included writing, dancing, singing, screaming all encompassed into a two-step process by which I walk myself back to peace and wholeness.
Step 1: Get Happy.
Step 2. Find Joy.
Definitions, shall we?
It [joy] comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.
Joy is the state of being happy while happy is the state of pleasure or contentment.
I know it seems simple but hear me out!
Step 1: Get Happy
It’s understood that happiness can be temporary. Simply being pleased by a thing or content with a thing can change as the thing changes. If you’ve ever met a person suffering from depression, there might be days where they seem to be on an upward path and then the next day, they are back to the feelings that keep them bound. Those moments of relief are from bouts of happiness.
Ever had someone ask “But are you happy?” You might find that the answer doesn’t lend to a true assessment of how the person feels about their overall state of being. A person may be happy with the current outcome but disappointed by the process. Ex: They may be unhappy with their spouse but still deeply in love.
If happiness is fleeting, than why pursue it?
As fleeting as happiness may be, the moments are genuine. Happiness is equal to grief in that it’s also unapologetic. Just as grief over a loss can grip us to our soul, true happiness can’t be denied in its moment.
Happiness can be achieved by participating in the things that please you. For me, I listen music, I sing loud and embarrassingly, I twerk, I hang with friends, I swim, I eat ice-cream.
Make a list of things that make you happy. In the moments of sadness, you can refer to your happy list. Put on that list a few people, places, and things/ activities that make you smile, laugh, and feel relief. Might sound silly but in moments of grief, it might be hard to think of healthy ways to pull yourself up or even out.
Be mindful that there are things that can bring temporary relief but are not happiness such as over-drinking, drug use, binge eating, or meaningless sex. Put those vices on your happiness list in hopes of thwarting yourself from doing them.
Step 2: Find Joy
The reason this step is “Find Joy” rather than “Get Joy” is because joy isn’t easy. Unlike happiness which can be achieved though intentional actions, joy is the result of long-term work. To be honest, I’d say it almost requires a supernatural impartation. Making peace with self and situations around means you don’t just go thru the fire but you actually face it. You can’t simply allow yourself to handle day by day until you casually forget about the hurt or the bruise heals. This is actual healing work.
Joy is long-lasting and sustaining. It doesn’t come without its heartaches and doesn’t necessarily mean the work stops, but you can start to live again. With joy, you’ll find yourself needing less moments of happiness because you won’t have to fake it anymore.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The biggest trick that our hearts can play when seeking joy is that 1. We don’t deserve it and 2. You have to forget. That’s not true. Nor is it necessary to beat yourself up over. You do deserve joy. And you don’t have to forget people or situations to have that joy. What you do have to do is agree to not let those things impact your life to the point of sadness and depression anymore.
I once made some major life changes because grief has gripped me. I quit my job, I ended friendships, I broke hearts, I moved out of my home, I threw away opportunities. I built my life and the world around me to accommodate my grief. It wasn’t until I decided to face my demons (come to peace with who, why, and how) that I looked around me and realized that even though I was dealing with depression, I was not depressed. Even though I was grieving, I was not grief. I refused to be labeled by or embody what was temporary. It’s real and the feelings are real but they are temporary.
Don’t make permanent decisions off of temporary feelings.
Get your soul (thoughts, feelings, and emotions) in order.
This article is dedicated to the friends and family members dealing with the lost of a loved one. Our hearts are hurting yet we still can live a life of happiness and wholeness.
For Emmanuel Langston,
Uncle Andre, Amichigan, Lailah, Jessica, Aunt Rose, Ma’Cia, Uncle Ronnie, Grandpa Ford, Dyore and so many more.