I have felt bliss. The kind of happiness that has made me completely content in the moment. I’ve taken a breath that is deep and smiled as the wind brushed past my lips on exhale. I’ve closed my eyes and felt peace invade every fibre of my being.
When we lost her, I remember asking in disbelief did I actually feel that way at some point in time? When somebody leaves you, a ubiquitous fog of resistance rolls in that makes it difficult to even think about feeling truly happy again. Maybe it’s a fear that it will end, or the distrust that it’s real, or guilt…
I want to feel happiness, but if I feel it I will be saying I don’t need her. I will be saying it’s possible to be just as happy without her. I will be saying that I don’t care if she’s gone.
The vocalizations are often quiet. Sometimes they are only heard when you are completely alone; when the nagging void is eating you up inside and nothing can soothe it; when you realize your heart isn’t as full as it once was. They come in whispers, almost too small to distinguish but loud enough to keep happiness at bay.
When life first goes awry, it’s possible to chase some form of happiness based on the statement “he/she would want you to be happy.” Or, “they are gone, but you are still here…” True enough statements. However, regaining real contentment and happiness takes much more. It means fighting the inherent notion that a smile endorses the tragedy. It means accepting the frustrating concept that you can feel joy when they aren’t here. It means making peace with the one who is gone.
The last one has been the kicker for me. There has been a single knot existing in my stomach, the one that won’t leave its post; the one that’s duty is to protect mom and I. It guards our relationship from the elements. This instinct, however, is not what will conserve my bond with mom. What will is giving the knot permission to relax.
Starting on the journey to relaxed knothood required what almost felt like a face-to-face conversation with my mom; a point in time that I told her I love her and lamented that nothing is the same without her. And I listened to her voice that said I am loved in return and that it will always be that way. I am a good person. I am a good person if I’m sad and I’m a good person if I’m happy. Even without her. I needed to close my eyes and hear her say it.
When one of your favourite people isn’t in this world anymore it shouldn’t be possible to feel unconstrained joy. But against all odds, it is. The ability to heal, for things to be regenerated, for second chances to be so common, these are things which amaze me the most about the world. Actually accepting these gifts is another story. Time helped; a “conversation” with mom helped; and remembering, imagining and including her in my present happiness has been crucial.
It is so subtle. Perhaps you’ve never thought out loud I would be unloving to let a bounce enter my step or a belly laugh live in my stomach but it’s something that I think holds a lot of us back more than we know. Though the resistance to happiness is just a part of the process, and will continually materialize in moments that are the most precious of life experiences – the ones he/she should be part of – I think it’s true, they would want us to be happy. My mom doesn’t want another life to end because hers did, and frankly it would be selfish to let it be that way.
Being okay with happiness has been one of the longest processes in my own experience, but it is such an extremely important end to chase. Two and a half years into the journey, I’m eager to honour my mom with smiles and closed eyes and deep breaths, allowing her, and happiness, to be part of every fibre of my being.