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Choosing Joy in Grief

I wanted to write a bit today about choosing joy. So if you don't already know, and if you're new to my blog or haven't read the "About," you wouldn't know. A year and a half ago, I lost my mom and she and I were extremely close. She's my best friend. And today, March 14th, is her birthday. This is my or "our" my brothers and I second birthday of hers since her spirit left her body. It's a vastly different feeling than last year. Last year for her birthday, I chose sadness. I chose to really wallow and went to her grave with flowers not because I wanted to, but because it seemed appropriate.

I was at the memorial park, walking between my two brothers. One brother is older and the other is my baby brother. Both are muscular, strong men and I must say that our mother, Jo-Ann, gave birth to some solid children! I broke our silence by stating, "I can't believe this is where we have to be for a birthday." In that moment, I chose misery which is normal and I'm not discounting that. Grief has many shapes. But then my little brother, my baby brother, who's now a grown man, but he'll always be my baby brother, said something very profound: "This is the day that Mommy was born. This should always be a happy day." He shifted my paradigm in that moment. My baby brother, my Capricorn made a decision, and it was a done deal, a wrap.

When he said "I'm always going to be happy on this day" I was like, yeah, it resonated. It's what my mom would want. She would want us to celebrate today. And that's exactly what we're going to do. My brothers and I are meeting for dinner later tonight for the sole purpose of being together like our mother, our Jo-Ann would want.

We aren't going anywhere near the memorial park where our mother's body rests. Instead, we're going to a different state, Virginia. That's one of the great benefits about living in the DC area. It consists of three or let's say, two and a half states!

At midnight, I texted my mom. After a year and half, the service to her phone is still activated. I texted her "Happy birthday, Mommy! I love you more than anything" followed by three heart emojis and an inside joke between her and me that I will keep between us.

I started smiling because it is a happy day. It's the day my mother was born. And Instead of being sad today, I'm just thinking about everything that she's given me, including the house that I'm currently living in.

Other examples of the gifts that my mom left are things like how to be kind, how to be funny how to not take everything so seriously. She taught me how to find softness and lightness and that's what I'm carrying with me today.

Now that I'm 50, I have so many friends that are losing people. It seems like I read or hear about a new loss daily on social media. One of my closest friends, one of my Howard University sisters, just lost her dad. So many of my friends are losing their parents. Sadly, some of them are also losing siblings or children and I just want to say that in the beginning, the grief is very jagged. It's like everything that you touch cuts. Everything that you hear cuts. Everything that you smell, see, everything just cuts, cuts, cuts. And it's not that time erases your grief, because it doesn't. It can soften it. It can bring you to a place where you're not so much focused on the absence of the person that you love, but you can now transition into focusing more on the gifts that they left you.

So for me, the best gifts that my mom left me, of course, are my two brothers and that's what she wanted. She left us all letters long before she passed away. It's a whole other story, a whole different day. In her letter she expressed how very proud she was for raising her children to love each other, to support each other. That's her legacy. Her legacy is the love that we have for each other.

Another gift that she left me is, and it wasn't until after she joined the ancestors that I noticed this. As I started going through more and more family pictures, I discovered that I look exactly like my mom. So those moments when I miss her the most, I look in the mirror and it's like, there she is. And that is such an incredible gift. Yeah, it's just like, oh, there she is. She's right there.

One of the most healing gifts that she left me are the friendships. When you lose your person, there are people that will step back into your life. There are people that your ancestor will bring into your life. There are signs that your ancestor will bring to the fore to let you know that you're on the right path and that you're pleasing them with your actions and the way that you're choosing to live. And that's another way that the jagged edges become a bit more smooth.

Now, that isn't to say that you still won't have those days or those moments where it's going to feel brand new. You know, you're going to go back to those moments sometimes when you got the call to get to the hospital or your medical team told you. And that's normal. That's natural. You'll always miss your person. And that's the love. There can't be grief unless there's love. And the deeper you love, the deeper you grieve. But I just wanted to write on this day, this very auspicious day, the day that would be my mom's 78th year on this planet, just to share that message that you can still choose joy. I know it hurts right now. I know it's scary. I know it can be infuriating. I know it can be confusing. But when you have that little space, and it could just be for a second....

It could just be for a breath. That's why the book is called Breath by Breath. Because grief changes with each round of breath, right? So it could be a millisecond of joy and then just you know have that be kind of like your mustard seed of joy. Plant it and then let it grow and know that joy is always there it's called anahata chakra it's always in your heart center. It's always there. It's always there. It's always accessible. It's always there. Sometimes you have to remind yourself it's always there when you're balled up crying. The joy is still there. When you're screaming, the joy is still there. When you feel alone, the joy is still there. All right?

Note: This is an edited transcript of a video that I recorded on my Mom's birthday. It has been edited to make sense as a piece of writing and of course to remove the many "ums" and run on sentences found in natural speaking and not edited writing. If you would like to watch the video of this post, please hit play....

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