Back in early spring, I wrote a piece about the stages of grief. I talked about how so many of us are grieving the life we thought we would live in 2020. We are way past the denial stage, which is stage 1, because there is just no denying that 2020 is not what we expected. With the year coming to an end, many of the conversations I’ve been having with my friends and family have been about feeling a sort of despair over what has happened, is happening and the questions around what is to come.
Despair can be described in so many ways. It can of course come from the loss of a loved one, but it can also come from a bad day, or a really challenging year like we have been experiencing. Despair is a stage of grieving what could have been, or what has been lost. You might be at this stage realizing all that has been put on hold, and the true magnitude of what is happening. In this stage you may be feeling depression, reflection and loneliness.
That doesn’t mean that there are not good days intertwined, of course there are, because it isn’t one or the other, it is usually both. Meaning, we can experience joy and despair together. For example, perhaps you have a good morning, but your evening takes a turn for the worse. That doesn’t erase the good morning you had; it just means that you experienced both feelings on the emotional scale. Perhaps you lost a job or contract. Another example could be that you are so grateful that you have everything you need and are financially safe and you are feeling the despair around losing your job.
Let me take this even deeper…
I was speaking with someone the other day and they said they were so grateful that he and his partner were healthy, safe and had all that they could ever need, but he was feeling so much sadness over all that he is missing due to have to physically distance himself from his loved ones. We had a deep conversation about it, and talked about how odd it is to feel both despair and joy at the same time. He was feeling joy over our conversation and being able to chat and despair over the experience he has been experiencing over the past 8 months. That same day, I was feeling angry and disappointed over losing another speaking gig because the event got cancelled due to COVID and feeling hopeful and optimistic that the changes I was making in my business would eventually supplement my speaking gig income. I told him (and myself) to feel both and embrace them because both emotions are a part our current experience. Both were true.
And then I asked him, “How can you experience more joyful moments?”
That is what I encourage you to explore. This isn’t about bypassing your feelings, I want you to feel it all, but I also know that despair is not an enjoyable place to take up permanent residence in. You don’t even need to do anything drastic, just simply redirect your attention to something that makes you feel happy, joyful, or even playful. Even a few minutes can have a significant impact.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I coloured with my niece, while listening to Disney music. Her innocence, spending time with her, and getting to be childlike was a joyful experience for me. I walked with my dog in the rain last week and watching him run in the puddles brought me so much joy because he was having the time of his life. So I ran in the puddles and found myself having a giddy and joyful moment.
When you feel trapped on the emotional rollercoaster of despair, fear, even uncertainty, often the only way to get back to a better feeling place is to get grounded and redirect your energy to something that feels even microscopically better. It can be a walk in nature, which is always an amazing way to get grounded. Feeling the air on your skin, the smell of the earth and even the sun on your face. Or running through muddy puddles. Who cares how old you are, it never stops being fun!
It can all start with one simple question: “What can I do to experience joyful moments today?” And the first thing that comes to your mind, that is your intuition guiding you.
Let’s take it even deeper with some journaling below.
When we forget to give ourselves the space and time to experience joyful moments, we need to remind ourselves of what actually brings us joy. How quickly we forget.
Take yourself back to all the memories of your past that brought you joy, happiness, giddiness, love, even connection and support. Make a list of everything that felt good. When you are finished, look at your list and see if there anything on that list that you can incorporate into your day, or even plan for to give yourself something to look forward to.
There are really upsetting things happening externally, things we have no control over, but our inner world, choices, attitude, reactions and actions are all yours. Feel what you are feeling AND reroute yourself when you are taking up permanent residence in a place you don’t want to be.