This is a new concept. It might be confusing, but go with me here.
I think it’s possible to be happy and grieve at the same time.
I don’t mean that we’re happy that we’re grieving. I mean that it’s possible to feel happy with what’s going on around you, but still grieve the fact that the person you most wish could share those moments with you…is gone.
So…I guess what I’m saying is…we’re grieving because we’re happy?
Good Lord. No wonder no one ever wants to talk to us. We’re a bunch of lunatics.
I remember, not long after my husband died…ugh…I hate to admit this…I had a good day. I actually had that feeling of hope that it was possible that I could lead a productive, fulfilling, and…yes…happy life even though he was gone. I had a sudden flash and a vision of the future…a future without him. And as soon as that thought struck me…
…I felt terrible.
How could I? How dare I smile and interact with a stranger or a friend as if nothing had ever happened? How could I make plans to take a trip when he wasn’t here to go with me? How could I plan anything for the future without feeling like I was excluding him in some way?
And the ultimate question: Did that mean I didn’t love my husband enough because I found a way to go on without him?
This is a problem that plagued me for a good long while. I can’t even tell you the feelings of guilt I had. It honestly made me doubt the depths of my love for him and the connection we had shared for 13 years. And no matter how many people told me, “He would want you to be happy. He would want you to go on,” I never felt any better about it.
Because…really…what are they supposed to say? “I knew your husband pretty well and he’d really rather you throw away all of your make-up, invest in a line of muumuus, and never leave your house.”
Yeah. That would be helpful.
Here’s the thing…and it’s really pretty basic. You have one thing you can’t choose and one thing you can:
1. NO CHOICE: You have to go on. At some point you have to even leave your house because that wine and bag of Lays won’t show up at your doorstep, ring your bell, and announce that they’re ready to party.
2. CHOICE: How are you going to do it? When it comes down to it, if you make the choice to give into the grief all day, every day, for the rest of your life, the only person you’re hurting is yourself. If you make the choice to make the most of every day (because, for most us, if our spouses were here that’s what they would be doing) you’re choosing to not only change your life, but I’m guessing you’ll affect more people than you will ever know.
Happiness is not a constant. It’s not a state that we’re always in and we should never expect that. There are times when we have to give into our grief. If we didn't...we would explode in one, big widow mess. I don't even think it could be contained by a fashionable muumuu.
I don’t want for this to sound bad, or like I don’t have a lot of happy memories with my husband, but I remember having several moments when I thought to myself while he was alive, “I am completely happy right now.” My heart felt full, our relationship was in a good place, and the kids weren’t fighting. We may have been at a point when I wasn’t worried about our finances (and that usually lasted about 5 minutes), anyone’s health, and had nothing potentially hazardous on the horizon.
Think about it…those moments of pure happiness…they’re fleeting. They’re rare. They give us an appreciation of what’s possible. And they leave us with the goal of creating them again.
When we lose someone…well…it’s hard to get those happy moments back. Some may say it’s impossible because no matter how happy we are, there will still be a part of us that wishes our spouse was there to share with us.
But I’ve decided to make a choice. Instead of grieving my moments of happiness, I’ve decided to do something radical. I’ve decided that every time I’m happy, I will believe, with all my heart, that my husband is here to share them with me. I’ve decided that if I buy a new home, he’ll be right next to me giving me a pat on the back. I’ve decided that if I meet my girlfriends for Happy Hour, he’ll be right there laughing along with us (and probably listening to things he shouldn’t). I’ve decided that I won’t think of those milestones that my kids have as being missed by him…but rather that he’s there, behind the scenes, probably seeing more of them than I am. I may be there to play the toothfairy, but he was in the room when the tooth was lost.
I’m making a choice to not let my grief take over the moments of happiness I still have in front of me. If I let that happen for the rest of my life…I’m wasting what could be some amazing moments yet to come. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned at this point it’s this….
Grief is not a choice. But happiness can be.
© Catherine Tidd 2010