The Dance of Grief and Joy

four person standing at top of grassy mountain


It’s been 11 years since I lost my wonderful mama, the person who gave me life and then filled that life with all the warmth, generosity and joy I now know is only possible from true love. Though I am ashamed to admit it, as the years go by, I find it more of a challenge to justify my grief. Over the last decade, I’ve started a business, married the love of my life, travelled around the world and had two wonderful boys (the furry, not the human kind). So many absolutely incredible things have happened to me since losing my mama and I’ve embraced it all with my arms open wide.



However, whilst on the surface I have everything to live for, my loss penetrates every essence of my soul, clouding everything I have achieved and every emotion I feel. This is grief. The permanent grey cloud over every silver lining. This is what I like to call the dance of grief and joy.

Grief has no time limit

What I find bewildering about being over decade into my grief is how surprised people are to learn that I am still grieving. Whether it is the friend who is alarmed that I occasionally still cry myself to sleep or the doctor who is concerned about my regular bouts of sadness, our society seems to impose an arbitrary time limit on grief, after which any regular periods of suffering are considered abnormal.

I know that I am not alone in my experience. I have friends who, after suddenly bursting into tears, have been accused of not accepting their loss or warned that they may be depressed. In most cases, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, facing up to your bereavement means being wholly transparent about your emotions and occasionally feeling fragile and overwhelmingly sad, but at the same time, being entirely confident that these feelings are normal.
Surely it is unnatural to expect someone who has lost such a powerful presence in their life to suddenly wake up one day and feel better?

The wound may heal and you may be able to live your life as normal, but the memory of the ‘injury’ will never go away. You will always be mourning them and the significant role they played in your life. Sometimes a memory will light up your whole face and other times the pain of missing them will be too much to bear, but you should never have to justify these feelings to anyone, let alone yourself.

Are grief and joy mutually exclusive?

Grief is the act of mourning the loss of someone you love and learning to live without them. It is a pivotal part of your life and may change and influence the path you take through life and the opinions you have. However, the most significant thing it cannot change is your ability to find happiness and joy. In fact, if anything, grief can pave the way to finding joy in the most simple and everyday pursuits, in recognition of the fact that happiness is exactly what is needed to make the most out of life.


I remember the first time I laughed after losing my mama; a genuine, fully committed laugh. It felt like a magical release; a sense of freedom I had previously believed would never be open to me again. Since then, I have smiled and laughed my way through the last 11 years. When I got married two years ago, it was undoubtedly the happiest day of my life, whilst simultaneously tinged with sadness.


I wholeheartedly believe that grief and joy go hand in hand, for it is your experience of the former that will inevitably guide you to finding the latter.


This is the Dance of Grief and Joy

Meera Elbay 

Founder, YNN

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