Joy Cometh In The Morning; Thoughts on grief

Guest Contributor: Lisa Dove
Can be Found On Instagram at: i_love_a_dove/

“A woman in the Far East who had lost her boy went to the Brahman and said: ‘You must 
give me back my boy, you must, you must!’ The Braham with calm dignity said to her: 
‘Come, Daughter, you must go out and get the leaves of a plant (which was as common as 
the commonest weeds with us) and make a tea of the leaves and drink the tea, and I will give you back your boy. But, the leaves must be gathered from the dooryard of a family that has never known sorrow.’

The woman traveled from village to village, and from province to province, and finally, heartsore and footsore she returned to her leader, saying: ‘Father, I have traveled all over the land, but I cannot find one home where sorrow has not been.” -unknown

Photo by Quah Choong Ming on Upsplash

None have been untouched by sorrow. Our family, friends, religious leaders, and communities help to lift our burden, but one thing is definite: no one can remove the sorrow from us, we have to go through it ourselves. Like the woman from the Far East who discovered not one household has been unvisited by sadness, we must move forward towards healing.

The exhausting challenge of personal healing is called “grief work.” Grief is a full-time 
job in the months and years immediately following a significant loss. Some are able to somehow postpone grief or ignore it all together, but it awaits you, and eventually 
you must face it. 

I approach this article with compassion having had my own tragedy, in sincere hope that it will help one of my sisters reading this blog.

My psychiatrist gave me the analogy of ‘the onion’ when I first began seeing him for grief therapy. He told me that mourning (grief) is much like an onion. Have you ever sliced an onion in half and looked at its layers? Onions have an outer skin and underneath this skin, we find layers upon layers of this pungent vegetable.

Photo by Maria Hochgesang on Upsplash

We could all agree: a whole onion is overpoweringly strong. It’s raw (like your emotions), burns your eyes (like tears), and causes your nose to run ( like crying). My psychiatrist taught me that grief is like peeling each separate layer of the onion; some thinner layers would come off faster and easier, the thicker layers would be more difficult and require a longer amount of time.

The necessity of grief work encompasses all types of grief: divorce, loss of physical health, a child that has been born with disabilities, financial ruin, infertility, mental illness, and, of course, death and more. These tragedies require the healing that comes as we process our grief.

Our family lost our eldest child, Justin, when he was fifteen years of age. The loss was further devastating because, in his hopeless, he took his own life. There was no time for preparing
or goodbyes, as is often the case with unexpected loss. The last time I saw Justin he was sitting 
at our kitchen table eating a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of Sunny Delight.  Within a matter of hours he was gone. He took his life in a park near our home while I was at the doctor with our baby twin sons. Justin has seven siblings.

Upon receiving the news of his death, I was debilitated with anguish; deep and endless. My human-ness could not bear the expanse of this impossible tragedy. In truth, I fainted and 
was revived by a nurse with ammonia salts. 

It was at that moment that I met ‘Grief’. He knocked as kindly as possible on the door of my heart; I was compelled to let him enter. Grief was its own entity, it stood shoulder to shoulder with me. My heavy and hopeless heart would not be lightened without the exhausting effort of working out how to live with this tragedy. Grief became my constant companion while I peeled my bitter, acrid onion. 

In the many years following  Justin’s death, I have learned quite a bit, a great deal actually. Time is a healer...grieving takes an incredible amount of t-i-m-e. Although it’s true that 
life will never be the same, and you’ll never ‘get over it’, you will absolutely come to accept the unacceptable. Grief leads us in a process of acceptance and, remarkably, can lead us to peace. 

Personal photo by Lisa Dove

The work is tirelessly difficult and it may seem imperceptibly slow but you’re not on a watch and your ways of coping will be your own. Therapy, self-compassion, recounting happy memories of your loved ones, and feeling grateful for your blessings are all healthy ways to cope. This is your personal journey of healing. Coming to a place of understanding and acceptance requires fierce strength but a full life awaits you in your future.

Grief was not a frightening, ominous presence; he actually became a comfortable companion with time. I respected what Grief had taught me; we bonded. I was softened; more empathetic, and resilient. There was a reward waiting for me and I earned it.
Six months after I lost my son, I made a new, lifelong friend. She told me something I’ve never forgotten and that I believe with my whole heart. She, too, lost her only child, also as a result of suicide. One day while we were spending time together, she put her hands affectionately on my shoulders and looked at me straight in the eyes with a soft benevolence. ‘Believe me when 
I tell you that you will have joy again in your life’, she said. Those words, spoken out of love and experience, was a rescue buoy thrown to save me from hopelessness. I grabbed ahold of that buoy ferociously and dedicated my thoughts and efforts toward that time when I would again experience joy--joy through ‘mourning’.

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Upsplash

This bible scripture has given me comfort, found In Psalms 30, verse 5:
‘...weeping may endure for a night, but J-O-Y cometh in the morning.’

May you always possess hope, remember you are stronger than you know, seek peace, and never, ever give up. Proudly put your beautiful face to the sun and feel your resiliency. After 
a season of weeping, you will discover J-O-Y in the morning.