Grief/Joy

“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

- from “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Grief and joy are more like twin sisters than the sworn enemies we often take them to be. Both speak to listening hearts. Both contain unfathomable depths of feeling. And both point towards gratefulness: Grief comes from a heartrending appreciation of what matters most to us; while joy reawakens us to life’s wonder even when we’ve discovered how precarious it is.

“Precarious” comes from the same Latin root as the word “prayer.” Here prayer does not mean pleading with a distant deity who may or may not pay attention. It may not even be a request at all. Prayer in this sense means rather that we reconnect with the very Source from which we come. We open the eyes of our heart to the inner light abiding in everything. We feel connected to this Source – through a hovering hummingbird, a toddler’s giggle, the aroma of fresh-baked bread – yet in a flicker, the connection seems gone and we are plunged into grief. This teaches us to let go, courageously, again and again. None of us would have the heart for this task if we did not begin to see that the light has a steady presence in spite of appearances. With joy we realize that the radiance we glimpse flows steadily and illumines all creation in an everlasting glow.

And so we come to see these twins, grief and joy, as playing with each other, teaching each other, caring for each other. We recognize their exchanges and moods. A sudden gladness can unexpectedly shine forth in a time of great sorrow. Then again, even in our greatest joy we are apt to hear the not-so-distant wailing of the suffering world.

A full life turns neither from grief nor from joy. A full life becomes like that of Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote, “I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.” To lick out all the pots of sorrow and still rejoice in rainbows: Could we hope for a more profound expression of gratefulness?

Grief and Gratefulness - We can find a profound source of gratefulness right within grief itself. This practice session will show you how.

Forum - Here you can share your grief, your gratefulness, and the unanticipated intersections between the two, and you can also learn from others' experiences.

more Grief/Joy links and resources