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Grief and Joy

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Dec 15th, 2022

In our society we do not talk much about grief, and as a nurse I have not always had safe spaces to reflect and express my grief after the many losses that have occurred both personally and as a nurse. For this reason I decided to become an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist so I could help both myself and others process the unrelenting grief that can come as part of our profession. What I have found both personally and working with many nurses, is that the pain of our grief can be so strong that we cope by choosing to cover it up and pretend like it doesn’t exist. When we do this, we limit our ability to feel the sadness, as well as all our emotions, including our joy.

Have you ever laughed so hard that you started crying tears of true grief? Or gotten angry so quickly that you had no idea where the anger came from?

Our grief and our joy are both meant to be released into this world and when given the

opportunity our grief will try to escape. It usually escapes as anger, however, it escapes for me in many times of joy and wonder as well.

Most recently this happened over Thanksgiving when we decided to go to Disneyland. I must say Disneyland is a little bit like hell for me as I hate crowds, parades and the excitement of roller coasters continues to decrease as my age and vomit reflexes increase. It was the end of the night and the fireworks display was just incredible. We have missed fireworks for many years due to COVID and fire risk, so to watch it live and through the eyes of my seven year old twins was such a gift. When the fireworks finale finally came to an end, it began to snow. This is when the tears started and wouldn’t stop as a memory came flooding back to me. It was November 2005 and we decided to take my mother to Disneyland as our last trip before she died. “It’s snowing.” My mother exclaimed, reaching out her hand to catch a single snowflake as they floated in 80 degree weather. She looked so much like a little girl, her shaved head, thanks to chemo, was covered by a blue bandana and her large sparkling blue eyes darting to each and every snowflake as she tried to catch them all. She watched in awe and wonder as she reached her palm open wide to the sky trying to hold on to the beauty, the life of the snowflake for just a little bit longer.

I live in Colorado and I see snow every year, however this memory coupled with the beauty of watching everyone, overwhelmed with awe, reach out their hand to catch and hold onto the life of each snowflake shook me to my core. I wanted to hide as the tears just wouldn’t stop, the memory was too big and the joy and the grief were just too strong for me to hold it all in. I decided to let it all out and in the middle of the happiest place on earth, I did, I cried loud and I cried hard. As I cried, I reached out my hand and with an open palm I watched as snowflake after snowflake landed and melted simultaneously. The joy of the snowflake coupled with the loss of it disappearing at the same time was both my joy and my grief. “We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.” –

Mary Oliver

May we all be as brave as my mother this holiday season, to extend an open palm of compassion to ourselves first, and then to others as we hold the grief and the joy, the beauty and the loss.

Maybe this is the truest gift we can give to ourselves and to one another, the gift of a melting snowflake, the gift of our humanity, unveiled to see our beauty, our tears, our joy, our hope, and our wonder.

Thank you so much for reading. -Tara Rynders

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