Are you happy? People ask me that question often and most of the time I cringe because I have no idea how to answer it. It seems like a simple question but for me it’s not.
Webster defines HAPPY as: enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment. Seems pretty simple but of course life is not simple. Everyday we carry so many emotions, we carry failures, guilt, shame and so answering that question, “are you happy?” even to ourselves, is hard.
When you are living with grief it gets even messier. When you have lost your child is it ever ok to be happy or to even feel happy for a few moments? When does it stop feeling like you’re dishonoring the person that is gone by feeling something other than pain. If I laugh too hard or I post a picture where I look like I’m having too much fun will people think that I don’t miss her enough or I didn’t love her enough?
I remember in the very early days of loss if there were 5 minutes that I didn’t feel excruciating pain I was covered with this overwhelming guilt. How could I possibly feel nothing, what is wrong with me? But then, like clockwork the pain would pour over me again and remind me of the depth of my love for Eliza. It was almost a relief.
My friend and I were texting recently and I’m not sure what prompted it but she said this “being happy doesn’t mean you are over Eliza. I pray one day you can not feel that pain anymore. And I promise you that does not mean you are over her or don’t care. It means you love her so so much that you can put the tragedy away and remember the happy times and let her live through the foundation.” I think I read that 1000 times over the next few days. Trying to make that feel right. Trying to make myself actually believe it.
It’s been 4 years and I still feel uncomfortable saying I’m happy. I still feel like a part of me should never be happy again. I lost my only child, how could I possibly feel anything close to happiness.
We know Websters definition of happy, but what defines happy to me? What defines happy right now, not 5 years ago, not 25 years ago. Happiness changes throughout our lives. Things that made us happy at 17 certainly don’t make us happy now. It’s the same with our circumstances, the things that make me happy don’t make someone who has lived a completely different life happy. There is no gauge for grief and there is no gauge for happiness. It’s so personal. But that’s such a powerful feeling to know that we can choose how life is going to impact us, how we are going to grieve and ultimately how we are going to find happiness again.
So today happiness is my ability to be vunurable and share my story. To use all the things I’ve learned during suffering and truly help someone. Being able to leave my sales job and now wake up everyday and talk about my daughter who is changing the world. Seeing someone wearing an Eliza Hope sweatshirt when they have no idea they are going to see me that day. A stranger sending me a picture of a pinecone. That is what makes me happy. So my happiness is different now and maybe I’ve just been searching for the old kind the surface kind of happiness. And now I can feel happiness deeper because I have felt pain on such an intense scale.
So to my dear friend, I found happiness, it was there the whole time. It’s Eliza’s life; and now i’ll just wait with an expectant heart until I see her again.
“Here come bad news talking this and that
Well give me all you got, don’t hold back
Well I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine
No offence to you don’t waste your time
Here’s whyClap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”
~ Pharrell Williams