Grief And Joy Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Today is Christmas lottery day in Spain and I came across a beautiful text by Spanish writer Roy Galán talking about how we’ve won the lottery so many times. Because there is so much we have even if we haven’t won a money prize.

(Click here if you want to read it ━ warning: it’s in Spanish).

There are two lines in particular that have really touched me. One says we’ve won the lottery if, when we open the tap, water comes out. Such a simple thing we tend to take for granted. I always try to remember to appreciate the fact I can have hot showers every day because I get cold very easily and nothing says “comfort” like a nice hot shower. But lately, all I’ve been focusing on is how much chlorine the water has. Perspective is everything. 

The other line says we’ve won the lottery if we have memories of those who are no longer here. And that hit me hard in the middle of this landscape of grief I’m navigating.

My father died three months ago. For three months I’ve been living in a state that felt kind of unreal. I felt sad but also a bit numb at the same time, as if grief was a mirror and I did my best to not look at it directly. I remember the time he almost died more than a decade ago and how that numbness took over me and I forgot how to feel until years later when I saw the movie A Monster Calls. That night I cried and cried about the time he almost died and all the years he’s been sick and not fully here. 

That’s the thing with grief. It lives in you, sometimes dormant, until one day something opens the tap and all the feelings come out. It can be a movie (it often is for me), a book, perhaps a song ━ whatever the vehicle is, the universality of emotions ensures sooner or later we will stumble upon a piece of the world that will bring out what we’re hiding inside. And there is nothing like art in all its forms and expressions to wake up the dormant parts in ourselves.

My father taught me there are no absolutes. There are no monsters and no heroes: both live within us. There is no such thing as either living in fear or living without fear: fear walks with us, sometimes stopping us, sometimes staying behind. The human experience is a balancing act, a dance of lights and shadows with no easy answers. It’s all one and the same. And where there’s grief, there can also be joy.

The day of his funeral was also one of the happiest days I’ve experienced this year. I felt something sink in my stomach when I saw his body but then my family hugged me. One by one I felt the comfort of their arms and we all ended up spending the day together, something we hadn’t done in years. Something I had forgotten I needed. Something that intertwined grief and joy. 

I’m so lucky I got to spend that day with them in a year when so many families are separated under the threat of this pandemic. So many people have died in isolation. Many haven’t had the chance to share their grief with their loved ones. If you’re one of those people, know my heart goes with you. I never got to say goodbye to my father but since he died, I keep getting flashes of memories we shared together. There were many bad ones but also great ones, and between the great memories and the great lessons I’ve learned from being his daughter, I can say I’ve won the lottery.

I hope you’ve won the lottery too.

There are no absolutes in this world. Grief and joy can coexist. Some days one will be more present than the other, but all we’re asked to do is ride with the waves. And write. And make art. And spend time with loved ones to remember we’re not alone. And spend time in nature to remember life comes with its cycles of death and rebirth, and one is not less precious than the other. It’s the same coin: the transaction we make to be alive.

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