Great Joy and Deep Grief

The paradox of living them side by side

This is a week of celebration at our house. Our youngest daughter is graduating from Baylor University with a doctoral degree, OTD – Occupational Therapy Doctor. We tease her by calling her “Dr.,” which brings a smile to her face, because we are so proud of her and the efforts she has put in over the last years to complete this degree.

It was no easy task to work accelerated program, which required her to live in several places as she navigated online courses, in person labs, and 12 week field assignments where she lived in three different states. Squeezing three years into two with only short breaks makes for a very intense experience. But she persevered and has come to the grand finale. We are headed to Texas to celebrate with her later this week.

This is also a week of sorrow at our house, as a parent enters Hospice Care after several months of rapid decline. We know her time here on earth is coming to an end, and as we navigate the journey of grief and caregiving, it feels pretty intense. As Christians we have the hope of eternal life, which brings us hope and joy in knowing that her suffering will soon be over. But for those of us left behind, we will miss her presence in our lives, and we .

So how does one navigate the paradox of joy and celebration and new beginnings, while also mourning and missing what we’ve always known? Especially as we approach the holidays with more celebrations and gatherings when we often just want reflection and peace?

I don’t really have any profound answers to the questions I post, but I do have three thoughts to offer:

  1. Self Care is important right now. It is a time to fully engage in both experiences, not negate one for the other. Allow yourself time for Joy and also time for grief. Take rest and breaks seriously. Your emotions are doing hard work. How can you best care for yourself right now?
  2. Give yourself the gift of time. Don’t feel like you have to do everything, instead pick what means the most to you right now. How can you use your time wisely so life doesn’t overwhelm?
  3. The end of the year is always a time for reflection and projection. As you celebrate a new beginning, reflect on how far you or someone else has come and celebrate the wins. Remember how you (or they) persevered through trials and how that taught and grew you/them. And as you reflect on the full life that is coming to an end, repeat the same process. Engage everyone involved in this activity. Celebrate the wins and the losses. Grief and Joy are both better when shared. In facet, they may not be that far apart after all is said and done.

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