When Joy becomes Grief

Just before July started, I went to our social media calendar to see what theme we’d decided July would be (we planned all 12 months ahead in January….).  I’ve been noticing that as the theme pops up, and I connect with it, I experience both the light and dark aspects. The brightness of the theme and also the shadow.  In fact if I’m really honest, I seem to be getting ALOT of shadow.

I was thrilled to see that July was JOY, one of my favourite emotions and feelings. I love nothing more than feeling joyous AND it’s sometimes been a challenge for me.  Over the years I’ve struggled with being in my sadness, desperately clawing my way back to JOY, because Joy=Good, Sadness=Bad.  I learnt the hard way that denying sadness (or any other emotion I deemed as unnecessary/bad/avoidable at all cost only led to more sadness…..difficulty…. struggle.

I stepped back and wondered to myself, ‘hmmm what’s the shadow of Joy… damn sadness, grief’.  I even said to Jo, ‘brilliant it’s Joy that means I’m likely to get depressed, why do I always get the shadow side??  Why can’t you have it for a change?’  We laughed and I decided I’d stay in Joy this time.

Or so I thought… but the universe had other plans.

I’m 41, and recently single. Again. I thought I’d finally found a soul mate but we haven’t been able to make it work so we’ve respectfully called time.

I’ve wanted children all my life. In fact it was the only real dream I ever had. In my late teens, I experienced tragedy and spent most of my twenties ignoring it. I threw myself into my career (because my generation of women were told they should be independent, make the most of the vote and not rely on a man). My thirties were full of healing from my earlier tragedy.  I never had any tick tock thoughts until I hit 40.  I just assumed it would happen at some point, especially after all the therapy and healing I’d done. I didn’t know that medically after 35 it starts to get seriously tricky because no one talks about childlessness.  It’s a taboo topic.

I’ve considered going it alone, and adoption but my financial situation (self employed) currently preclude me from both options. I don’t want to enter into a relationship because I want children, I want it to be for love.

So this July as I’m connecting with Joy and what that means to me, I start to notice how disconnected I am.  That I’ve pulled back from joyous occasions, baby showers, naming ceremonies, family parties, local events (targeted at families). My life has somehow got smaller, more introvert, more inward.  I’m avoiding events that sting my heart. I’m in protection mode.

We’re constantly being told by someone or something, that to ‘fit in’ or be ‘socially acceptable’ or ‘normal’ we have to comply to certain things (by the way this conditioning mainly came from religion back in the day when they wanted to ‘control’ societies for it’s own holy mission…. oh wait a minute… that still goes on it just comes from parliament now….).  So when we show up to a party and everyone you meet asks, ‘so have you met anyone yet?’, or ‘are you ever going to settle down and have kids?’, you start to feel wrong, that you don’t belong.  It’s like people don’t get you unless you’ve made the same ‘normal’ choices they have. It triggers all the shite you were told as a child, that being motherless is a waste of your ovaries, that woman’s purpose is to procreate and be mum, that you’re a failure as a woman if you don’t…. it goes on.

We don’t have many conversations about choices beyond the norm.  We’re starting to see unconventional families which I think is great, but there is still so much taboo around childless women (way more than childless men which is almost applauded rather than condemned).  I’m reminded that I’m in good company Beatrix Potter…. for example, Jennifer Aniston (if you combined their names its basically me!) LOL.

As I’m recovering from another broken heart, I notice I feel flat. Nothing seems to lift my spirits. I can’t get excited in the morning getting out of bed. My ability to connect with a vision for what I want beyond a relationship and a family are mute. Empty. Nothingness. A void. A big deep fat black void.

Then I realise. I’m grieving.

I’m grieving for the life I thought I’d have had by now. I’m grieving for the soul mate I thought would find me or me him. I’m grieving for all the chances I could have settled down but put my career first. I’m grieving for all the pain that came from the abuse that got in the way of me being able to love myself enough. I’m grieving for the family I’ve dreamt of all my life but most likely now will never have.  I’m grieving for the longing to be woken up by someone little who’s had a nightmare and needs my loving hugs and reassurance.  I’m grieving for the lost loves, the societal conditioning that distracted, the over powering patriarchy that dominated, the lies and myths I bought in to about time and opportunity.

My desire to find true Joy at the moment, is futile. To force it will mean it lacks authenticity. It lives on the other side of this grief.  Grief does not go away and although it feels rubbish to lean into it (the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the depression and finally the acceptance), it’s the only way to find true joy again.

At BraveSouls we encourage people to find their own path, to connect with their authentic truth, to stop comparing to others because everyones dreams are different. I need to create a new plan, but I can’t see it yet. I’m in the void, the abyss, the nothingness. Where everything strips away to make way for the new…. like the harvest of summer.

It doesn’t mean I can’t find joy of course I can. It’s just that my expectation of joy is smaller; a comforting brew, a plant that finally flowers, a shady spot on a walk with my dog, the most delicious glass of sauvignon that’s ever touched your lips, a random night with friends where your sharpness of wit was exceptional, the comfort of my favourite clothes, a cool nights sleep.

May both the joy and sadness find a place of peace in your heart… xxx



(Image courtesy of Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash)