Finding Joy in 2021

Wow! 12 months of pandemia….12 odd months of a new normal, that isn’t very normal at all.  We all have our own stories of sadness and joy woven throughout this crazy year.  Stories that will likely forever change how we live moving forward. Did you realize much of what you’ve been feeling over this past year is actually GRIEF? Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. It can be a strong, overwhelming emotion and is the natural reaction to a loss or change. Examples include the death of a loved one, the end of an important relationship, job loss, even the loss of independence through disability.  Sound familiar? For twelve months, we have been a grieving world.  

In the midst of the chaos of schools closing last year, I found myself trying to balance being a mom, my own needs and working from home. Sometimes It felt like there was no end to each day.  Yet somewhere in the grief, J O Y appeared.  I found it sitting down for dinners with my family and in the sunshine coming through my windows in the quiet mornings. I found joy watching people get creative in how they helped one another….my personal contribution ordering cheese dip to-go, sometimes 3 days a week, from my favorite restaurant to “help” them stay afloat. There was joy in being able to go the hair salon and watching my oldest get back into her dance studio.  The most joy filled part of 2020 for me, though, was coming together with some of my closest friends and family to launch The Joy Mission. It is my vision of how we can come together to support the children experiencing the deepest grief, and all the feelings that come along with it, from losing a parent.

Let’s talk about those feelings. One of the greatest gifts we have been given is the capacity to feel emotion. Sorrow, love, heartache, hope, disappointment, joy, regret, fear, anger, gratitude, peace. Grief is complex and cannot be put into a box or packaged neatly into a one-size-fits-all formula. Sometimes it can be many emotions at once; other times it’s an intense wave of a single soul-piercing emotion that carries a weight so strong, it feels as if it could lay you out flat.  

We can’t shield kids from it and can never fully take it away, but we can do something about it.  We can wrap our arms around them in their darkest hours, with positivity, love, hope, and of course, joy. As a member of our community, it is our mission to take care of these kids after losing a parent like we would want someone to take care of our kids if they lost us. We focus on J O Y because research shows that joy is constant, it sparks creativity, and we like to think of it as “unreasonable happiness.” Unreasonable because it doesn’t need a reason to exist. It is a happiness based on nothing in particular, yet that little word symbolizes the abiding sense of “enoughness.” Unlike the ephemeral states of pleasure and satisfaction, joy does not induce a craving for more, because JOY IS ENOUGH.

Natalie is the Founder of the Joy Mission living in Atlanta.