I Jigged When I Wanted To Jag
Author: Sarah Greene
Those who know new grief probably find it hard to imagine that "joy" could ever enter their life again. But I have found that it is possible. And I can tell you the exact moment that the first glimmer of joy entered my house, 3 weeks after my husband died...
My kids were 8 and 10 years young when their dad died. Prior to his death, they had known joy in so many things and one of these things was music. Not long before he died, I purchased a musical Irish dance CD for my non Irish children. They regaled in the joy of its sound! It was the kind of music that caused them to spring to life with youthful merriment as they "jigged" all around the room. I was glad for this distraction while I performed various household chores in a home that knew the unspoken distress of a father deployed to war.
Well, 3 weeks after his death, my daughter pushed the dusty button on the old boom box and inadvertently pushed my "grief button". I heard the familiar happy jaunty notes rising in volume and had to stop myself from pleading "NOOOOOO!" I instantly removed myself from the room where joy was happening.
Around the corner and in the safety of another room, I recognized that I had imposed a silent moratorium on music since "the death." This was done to avoid the pain it inflicted on me. I had actually found ways to redirect my kids' attention away from any music for 3 weeks and disabled an invitation for joy to enter their lives! As the familiar and whimsical Irish dance tunes came to life, I knew I could not repress it and it made me feel sick. I bit my quivering lip... an attempt to soften my audible sobs from reaching the joy filled room. The mere fact that I hated the joy allowed the lump in my throat to grow even bigger. It was so unfamiliar! It became too big to swallow, and I cried the silent painful cry a grieving widow learns to hide from her kids. It is the cry that she waits to release to prevent her kids from knowing her pain.
As the unfamiliar frolic and laughter erupted in the other room, I imagined that they each watched the other try to jig again. They sounded silly and free of grief! I tried to remind myself to take comfort in their resilience, but the dark cloud of grief was weighing heavily on me and my crying continued. Then, I realized that since the joy seeking instinct was so strong in my own children and I could not repress it, I could fight it or I could foster it. I knew if I were to continue to fend off and suffocate their moments of joy, they surely would suffer more. I had to let it in. I could not stand in the way of a natural force they were entitled to feel again…even if it felt too soon for me. They loved their dad so much and felt such pain in the wilderness of losing him that they had earned the right to celebrate life too. Which by the way, is exactly what their dad would have wanted them to do.
So, I put on my best red puffy swollen tear soaked face and walked into the room. I joined my children in dance. For my kids, there was no sense of loss or fear in that moment. Just joy! They laughed and were jolly. They loved that I joined them. Maybe my presence reinforced in them that it was okay to laugh again? I was not in a joyous mood, but I joined them to help complete their joy. I went along with the dance and faked it until I realized that I "let go" just enough to look joy in the face and make a little peace with my pain. In that moment, I rejoined with a part of myself that I had forgotten about. I winced as I acknowledged love is worth the risk of the pain...that we can endure and find joy again... I realized it would take me time to really embrace joy again, but it might be possible... and so I did a little jig!