Have you had a loss in your life? How do you overcome it and move forward? Think about creating a joy list -- a simple yet effective way to recapture your happiness after loss.
What is the joy list? It was an idea that helped me during a very sad, tragic time in my life. I lost my wife and became a widower at the age of 53 and was going through a grief healing journey. My thought was that I was obviously in a tremendous amount of pain and I was grieving and dealing with the loss of a loved one. I had all these things I had to do that were sad. I called this the "sad list." The "sad list" was filled with all of the activities that I had to do, contacting friends that we could not locate to let them know about my wife's death was sad. Closing credit card accounts and changing bank accounts was sad. Sad activities were central in my life for several months which, let's face it, can be very depressing. So I decided to overcome all of the sadness by creating a joy list.
The joy list was very simple. It was just a list of all the things that make me happy, bring me up, put me in a good frame of mind, or things that just bring me joy. My thought was if I could plan each week to do some of the things that brought me joy, it would help balance out some of the dark things I had to do that were on the sad list. My joy list included some of the following items:
· Art and art museums
· Water parks
· Being with friends
· Drawing and painting
· Working out
· Playing the drums
· Amusement parks
So I noticed once I started to work items from my joy list into my weekly schedule (I'm sure this is no surprise) they brought me joy. It felt good to have some joy back in my life. More importantly, while I was doing them they brought me joy and I was not thinking about the grief. It was a tremendous boost to my heart and soul. So I would feel sad, I would go do something joyful and then later that day, I might have felt sad again. My point is I didn't feel sad when I was in joy.
Now the cynics of the world will say to me, "Well sir, how can you have joy when your wife just died? How can you go anywhere and have fun when you should be grieving?" Well, I say that is nonsense! Just because I worked some small moments of joy into my life did not mean that I was not grieving, and it did not mean that I was not missing my wife. I was miserable enough grieving -- why would I want to sit around and continue to be miserable? I never understood that mindset.
So as for me I choose joy, I choose happiness, I choose to celebrate life because life is short. I am sure there are some folks reading this who will say "Well, that is a great idea to do the joy list -- but to be brutally honest, I don't feel like having joy." I understand, I really do. The timing of the joy list is entirely up to you, or you can never try it at all. I'm going to strongly recommend that you do it anyway.
Six weeks after my wife died I went to an amusement park. I know it sounds crazy but -- I found that it did help me tremendously to get out and do things that brought me joy. I'm not saying it is a right approach for you. I'm only saying that worked for me. I also believe that when you are grieving that sometimes you have to "fake it until you make it." It's almost as if you have to battle your mind -- your mind wants to grieve but your body and your spirit want to go out and play. What I noticed is when I put my body into action (like standing in a wave pool) my body convinced my mind to relax and have fun. So sometimes the mind follows the body and other times the body follows the mind. Just give it a try.
Here is a bigger question I would ask anyone -- what is so wrong with being happy? If you want joy, you can have it again, you just have to try harder and it will come -- I promise. I know because I lived it.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.