Finding Joy in the Intersection of Life and Death

Finding Joy in the Intersection of Life and Death

The complexities of life often present themselves in the form of complex and multifaceted intersections of emotions. Today, on what would have been my sister’s birthday, I am reminded of the hole her loss has left in my life and yet knowing I was privileged to be loved by her gives me reason and a tonne of memories over which I can silently smile. 

In our daily lives, we may experience moments of joy and fulfillment, while also navigating the difficulties that life can bring.  Today I was reminded of a graphic by @THEPRESENTPSYCHOLOGIST which a colleague had shared with me following a conversation about ‘the complexities of life’.

Over the last few years, I have been learning (or sometimes being forced to learn) how to embrace the lived, felt, full, and messy human experience. For me, there have been many things that have brought a smile to my face and a sense of happiness to my life, however, life has also brought its share of struggles.  

For the longest time, and occasionally still, I have felt the need to ‘pick a side’, to oversimplify or disregard the different emotions that I experienced because I didn’t feel permitted to embrace both sides of what I saw as paradoxical poles. I felt that if things were ‘good’ I had to put on a facade of happiness despite facing inner turmoil or challenges, not to mention the societal pressures that often make it difficult to openly express struggles. Likewise, when things were ‘bad’ there was no room for laughter or joy. 

One of the things that has given me the greatest reason to smile has been becoming a mother. The joy and love that comes with raising a child is immeasurable, and it has brought a new level of meaning to my life. This has been juxtaposed with the loss of my dad to cancer four years ago and the unexpected passing of my sister two years ago has been incredibly difficult. The pain of losing those close to me is something that I will carry with me forever, and to be honest, is something I haven’t yet begun to fully unpack. Because  I work and live internationally being far from home has meant that while it can be lonely and challenging at times, I have been shielded from facing the physical loss of my loved ones on a day-to-day basis, but I have also as a result lost the sense of “belonging” to a place called home…

I had to leave a job due to an extremely toxic boss and work environment, which was a difficult and severely emotional experience but since then I have found a better work-life balance, which has allowed me to focus on what truly matters to me. I have been blessed with great friends and relationships, as well as a deeper spiritual life and increased self-awareness which have resulted in a much healthier mental state and I am finally off my meds and therapy has been going well. While finances can be a constant source of stress and worry, as we strive to make ends meet I have a wonderful and supportive husband who has been there for me through thick and thin.

Despite the difficulties that I have faced, I know that I am not alone in my experiences. As the graphic shows; it is possible to be capable and lost, smiling and struggling, kind and set boundaries, vulnerable and powerful, successful and traumatized, extraverted and alone, valuable and flawed, introverted and reaching out, and loving and questioning all at the same time, and I can definitely attest to this. 

Many of us struggle with balancing the smiles and struggles in our lives. It is important to remember that it is okay to feel the weight of our struggles and to reach out for support when we need it. At the same time, it is also important to embrace and celebrate the smiles that come our way, even in the midst of the challenges.

“Life is full of both smiling and struggling, and it is often the intersections of these two paradoxical realms that make up the fabric of our lived experiences. For many of us, our joys and our challenges are intertwined, creating a complex tapestry of emotions and events. By recognizing the complexity of our emotions and experiences, we can create a more supportive and understanding environment for ourselves and others.

Today, on what would have been my sister’s birthday, I am choosing joy in her memory of her life and still holding the space to feel broken by her death.

I hope you too can find joy!