How Joy Can Balance Waves Of Grief

A Wave Of Grief

They say that grief comes in waves. I believe that it’s true. When you least expect it, a memory comes to mind and draws you back into the grief. The wave crashes then ebbs and all is calm again.

That happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

Someone posted an old photograph on Facebook on one of those “Remember When” sites. It was a group of women behind a display case full of pastries at Publix’s first Danish Bakery at Southgate Shopping Center in my hometown of Lakeland, Florida. (Publix is a grocery chain that originated here in central Florida and has spread throughout the Southeast.) The photo was from the late 1950s.

I smiled when I saw the picture because my dad was the manager of that bakery in the early to mid 1970s. It was also my first job other than babysitting. My dad was my first boss. My immediate thought was “Oh, I need to show this to Dad.” Then it hit me — I can’t, he’s gone.

A few days later, my husband and I were riding bikes on Anna Maria Island. I recalled all the stories my dad told about running around the island with his buddies when he was a boy. I’ll admit, I teared up a bit.

I feel strange that I haven’t really cried that much — not since the night my dad passed. I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve gotten a lump in my throat or tears in my eyes, but not a good cry. I feel like it’s coming. I just don’t know when.

A Special Time Of Remembrance

While my dad and I had a lot in common, there was one significant difference. He was Catholic but I’m Protestant.

About a month ago, I had an email from the woman in charge of the bereavement committee at my dad’s church, St. Joseph’s. She invited me to attend a special mass on November 2, All Soul’s Day. It’s the day set aside to remember loved ones who have died since the previous All Soul’s Day.

I decided to go to honor my dad. I think it would have pleased him.

Before the actual mass, there was a pre-ceremony. The names of all of the parishioners who had died the previous year were printed on small cards, a cross and dove design in the background. As each name was read aloud, we took our family member’s card up and attached it to a bulletin board.

A woman behind me quietly wept after her mother’s name was called. A dad and a little boy took their card up when a woman’s name was called — perhaps the wife and mother.

The sacredness of the hour was not lost on me. All of those people, young and old, male and female and several different nationalities, knew exactly how I felt. I also knew their sorrow. It was the common thread stitching our lives together if only for an hour on a Wednesday afternoon in November.

When I left the church, the kind woman who had invited me, the same one who helped us plan my dad’s funeral thanked me and wished me well. She reminded me that it is not at all unusual to have unexpected moments of sadness that sometimes felt like a wave.

A Lesson For Life

A little over a week later, I was in Washington DC for a three-day event centered on the Museum of the Bible. A gentleman gave a welcome message at our dinner the first night and spoke of a well-lived life. He pointed out that we as humans tend to desire a life of joy and ease. We don’t necessarily want to deal with the difficult things that may bring pain. But life is not like that. An authentic life will have sorrow along with joy. It’s not about avoiding the difficult so as not to encounter sorrow or pain but learning how to truly live embracing both.

I thought about God’s providence with this concept at this particular season of my life. While I grieve my father’s death and miss him so much, my heart is also full of joy because of my new grandson who I will get to see in just a few days. Proof that sorrow and joy can exist hand in hand.

How about you? Are you experiencing a sorrowful or difficult time? What is helping you endure?

For me, it is my faith in Jesus Christ. I believe my father shared that faith, that he is in heaven and that I will see him again. I know that there will be more times of sorrow along with more times of joy (hopefully in the form of additional grandchildren), but I trust that God will be with me through all of it. That allows me to live a truly authentic life, not fearing or avoiding the difficult things.

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