Finding Joy in the Midst of Grief

Grief can be all-consuming. Sometimes we just need small moments of finding joy.

Around midnight on the day, John died my daughter came into my bedroom to check on me.  I was fully awake and shared a random thought that brought a tiny moment of joy to my tortured soul that night.  I said, “you know I was just thinking.  Your Dad died on August 31 and John died on August 23rd.  August is not a good month for my husbands.” I smiled for a moment and said, “If I ever do this again, my husband will go to the doctor every July.”

This conversation allowed both of us to breathe for a moment. I was able to experience a sense of peace simply because I allowed a moment for a smile.  I was not happy, laughing or being disrespectful to John or to Korine’s memory of her father.  I just needed to smile for a moment.  I needed a break from the pain in my soul.

Joy vs Happiness

The words joy, rejoice, joyful appear over 300 times in the Bible while the words happy or happiness appear about 30 times.  The situations where “joy” is used to describe the experience of the writer are often difficult and painful situations. While in prison, Paul wrote about finding joy (contentment) because of our faith in Jesus Christ in spite of our situation. (Philippians 1:12-24).

Joy is enduring. Happiness is fleeting. Joy is internal (within the soul). Happiness is external.  Finding joy is finding true contentment.  Happiness is an emotion based on the actions of others.  Joy comes from within.  Happiness reflects our surroundings.

In Psalm 30:5c, David cries:

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

David understood that grief is temporary.  He knew that joy was eternal. David understood that his faith would bring him through any dark night to the joy of the morning.  Even one single beam of light pierces the darkness. One smile lightens the heaviness of grief.  Moments of joy can turn darkness to light as you remember the eternal presence of Christ.

It is OK to find Joy: Removing the Guilt Factor

During those early months following John’s death, I often felt guilty when I laughed or felt content with my new life. Somehow it was not right.  I also worried about what others might think if I laughed or expressed joy.  I was not happy, but I was often content.

“One of my favorite times of day is sunset when the sky is aglow with the warm colors of the sun melting into the horizon. This glorious sight generally brings a feeling of calm to my heart, but today, yesterday and the day before the setting sun brought tears and darkness not peace. As I close the blinds, shutting out the night sky the darkness fills my soul. His smile is not here to encourage me. His gentle, “it will be ok” echoes in the silence of the space we shared. Tonight I am alone, yet in the darkness; the Son brings a sliver of light to my heart. Gently whispering, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Deuteronomy 31:6,8. Once again I find joy in the midst of grief.”-Charlotte Thomason Journal Entry

The joy(contentment) was ever-present.  I simply had to recognize the tiny reminders of the source of my internal joy, my faith in Christ.  Finding those reminders was not always easy. To help me, I began to write things that made me smile.  Memories that brought tears, but also a smile because they were moments of joy with John.  Joy moments occur every day.

No matter what crisis you face, there is generally one moment that you feel that deep, calm sense of contentment every day.  Those moments of joy are God’s way of reminding you that He is always with you. Recognizing even tiny moments of joy in the midst of grief can provide relief. Sometimes the intensity of the journey so consumes us that we do not see the simple events that make us smile. Even in the deepest sorrow, there is room for Joy.

Finding joy in the circumstance

You may be thinking, “How can I find joy? I have lost my soul, my heart and my best friend.”  Where is the joy in that?  I remember those thoughts.  I remember being angry when others told me things like, “you are not alone. God is with you.”  Sometimes I literally wanted to slap those who made those comments to me. I understood where they were coming from, but the comments made me angry.  Over time, I began to see past my circumstances and allowed the light of joy to get through even the most difficult days.

During the first spring following John’s death. The wildflowers were prolific.  John’s favorite season was spring. We always toured the back roads of central Texas taking pictures of the bluebonnets. Seeing the flowers on every roadway was heart-wrenching.  One day as I drove to work, a friend said something that changed my heart.  As I shared my sorrow, she told me that her prayer for me was that when I saw the wildflowers, I would feel the joy I felt when John and I made our annual road trips.  She prayed for peace, contentment, and joy in my heart.  I  looked out the window and for the first time, smiled because I imagined John taking pictures and how much joy that brought him.

In that moment of joy, I realized that I was not alone.  God used my friend to remind me that finding joy is not dictated by circumstance but comes from my soul, my faith and from Christ.

Moments of joy are all around you.  Even on days when grief seems to devour you, you can find a moment of joy to pierce the darkness. During your journey through grief look for something that causes you to smile even for a second.   Joy is in your memory. Look at pictures of family members. Recall fun times with your spouse. How did your loved one make you laugh? The source of joy may simply be a beautiful sunset, a smooth drive to work, a text message from a friend. The point is to see the small glimmers of joy in the midst of the darkness of sorrow. What you are really doing is tapping into the joy that Christ planted in your heart.  Joy is always there. Grief lasts only for the night.  Give yourself permission to experience the “smiles”.

“I will allow the mourning to endure for the night as long as it takes, but I will recognize the moments that joy breaks through each day.”

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