Grief becomes joy

Three years passed by in a blink.

And in these three years I have learned more about myself than in the 32 years prior. 

When I first lost my mom, it was difficult to look into the future and envision a normal life. I was 31 going on 32, and could not believe that my time with my mom was over; just like that. 

For weeks and months my nights would be filled with thoughts of sorrow. How she would never get to see all the milestones my brother and I still needed to reach, and how my future children would go without knowing their maternal grandmother. My mind was littered with worry, and sadness and until I learned to cope with it all, it would turn out to be one of the hardest times of my life. 

In these three years I have learned that grief is different for everyone. But no matter the situation, as we all know we must endure this process at some point in our lives, the greatest lesson I’ve learned about grief is you must replace the sorrow with positivity. 

This doesn’t mean you “fake it until you make it”, or bottle up your sadness like it doesn’t exist. And I’m certainly not implying that you just find a way to “get over it” or that feelings of sorrow should be minimized. That is not my message by any means. But in order to be able to cope in such a way that YOUR life has meaning, you must remain positive. 

I’m not saying that transition is going to be easy. You may find yourself on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs at first. And that’s ok. But grief doesn’t need to be a negative event in your life. Mourning can be a positive experience. The grieving process can be a burden or a joy. And it’s ours to choose.

Three years later, I have chosen joy.

There is no person that I can identify that was more joyful than my mother. Anyone who knew her would agree with me. So for me, there is no better way to remember my mother’s joyous spirit than by transforming the pain into positives. Of course there are still tears. I still miss my mom and wish she could be with us here today. But as often as I can, I focus on joy. But how?

Being present and focusing on what matters to me right now in this moment.

Spending quality time with family and friends.
Working hard to make a difference in the lives of my students.
Building a home and life with my sweetheart. Setting goals and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment.

Remembering and honoring my mom through #TeamJudy.

Organizing fundraisers benefitting cancer research.
Running races like Miles for Moffitt and Making Strides against breast cancer with our team.
Paying it forward through volunteer opportunities at Ronald McDonald house or Metropolitan Ministries.
Spreading awareness and knowledge about cancer prevention and self check-ups.

Reminiscing, reliving and reflecting.

Reminiscing about all of the fun times and adventures with my mom.
Reliving moments by visiting her favorite places, vacation spots, and other destinations that brought her joy.
Reflecting on her life and gathering ideas, lessons, and experiences that I can apply to my own story.
And, above all,

Honoring my own life.

Doing the things that make me happy, content and fulfilled.
Taking care of my body through exercise and healthy, nutritious eating.
Finding joy in every single day; yes, even Mondays.
Filling my mind and soul with less worry and more clarity, less fear and more strength, less stress and more calm.

At some time or another we all must go through times of grief and sadness. Whether it be the death of a loved one or a friend, divorce, loss of job or another type of setback, it’s important to not let the sadness of the past affect the potential happiness of your present and future.

Replace sorrow with joy, enjoy all of life’s little things, and make the most of your time here on Earth.

I miss you mom. I know you’re dancing among the stars.

Love, Steph

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5 thoughts on “Grief becomes joy

  1. Stephanie, You couldn’t have said this any better. I had the pleasure of working with your Mom for many years. She was one of the most fun loving , positive people. We had so much fun with her. I remember the day she came to visit me at the beach….we were almost attacked by a shark. No kidding my first and only encounter with a shark. She told me “stay still Patty, don’t move!! Don’t move!! I walked on water that day!! She courageously nudged that shark on the nose and off the shark went!! True story no kidding. So Stephanie, from me to you through the spirit of your Mom, I am so proud of you!!!

  2. Choosing joy is not always easy after losing a loved one. It took me a while after losing my brother. Knowing that he would want me to live my life to the fullest helps me in being able to focus on the present. Your mom would be proud of how you are honoring her life and legacy.
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