I think as humans (most in particular as women), we are often conditioned to put feelings and emotions into categories… into neat little piles or labeled boxes. Things that make others uncomfortable are often better received in small, organized portions. As if labeled boxes full of emotions and feelings will somehow make feelings and emotions less messy. Also, not so subtly implying that messy equals bad.
As women, we really should know how close pain and joy align – we are mothers. A journey wrought with joy and pain braided together as love. The very beginning of many people’s introduction to parenthood begins with literal pain and is quite messy, but is it not arguably the most beautiful thing in the entire world? Messy does not equal bad, it just equals, well, messy.
Harder to contain? Perhaps. Longer to attend to? Certainly. But, bad? Not necessarily.
At 30 years old, I was 3 months into a brand-new job, happily living in my own home with my boyfriend of 2 years and our cat. Life was really good. I was figuring it out and not doing half bad if you asked me. And then, just like that, I lost my mom. She was just 52 years old. She wasn’t previously ill or hurt or fighting any sort of disease and a month prior to her loss, there was really no reason to think that soon we would be apart.
But life had other plans and in November 2016 she was gone and life as I knew it was very different. My 15-year-old twin brothers needed a caretaker. My aging stepfather needed help managing a household, paying bills and running a business. My extended family needed reassurance they typically got from my mother, that all would be well.
I want to assure you, I am not sharing the above story looking for your sympathy or grace. I tell you because I need you to know what I’ve learned and perhaps learn from it yourself. Emotions and feelings aren’t to be put in little neat piles or labeled boxes, and they aren’t to be managed and categorized and neatly dealt with one-by-one. They are to be lived. They are to be felt and sorted through, often all at once. It’s hard work. Really hard work – sorting through loss and love and happiness and sadness. It’s messy; but it’s meant to be.
The love I found in loss, couldn’t have been found if it wasn’t all in one big pile meshing together. Joy is in pain. Celebration can occur while you search for answers. Being happy doesn’t mean you aren’t also sad.
In the midst of feeling the deepest loss of my life, I was also engulfed in my greatest love story. And looking back on my experience, all I can think is thank goodness I was. What would pain look like if it was all we had? I am more and more grateful I had so much joy and goodness to help me balance it out.
I am here to tell you that joy and pain are not designed to be in organized boxes and are actually more beautifully felt when you let them intertwine as they see fit. Embrace the messiness. Love hard and often. Celebrate love and loss equally. We get one life folks, so you had better go ahead and jump in!