When Sorrow and Joy Collide: Coping with Opposite Emotions

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In 2007, my husband and I became guardians of our twin grandchildren. Our elder daughter, their mother, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Six months later the twin’s father died from the injuries he received in a car crash. Two more family members died as well, and we were stunned by grief.

The twins, one boy and one girl, were 15 years old when they moved in with us. Our challenge was to stay upbeat for them and grieve at the same time. I’m a strong person, but wondered if I would survive such tragedy. As time passed, however, I realized that having teens in the house again was fun.

Still, I experienced two opposite emotions, joy and sorrow, at the same time. Like bumper cars in an amusement park, these emotions crashed into each other. Sorrow and joy didn’t just hit each other, they fractured, the parts of one merging with parts of the other. I would have a good laugh, and the next minute tears would be sliding down my cheeks. Sometimes I wondered if I was going crazy. But I wasn’t crazy, I was overcome with grief.

In The Courage to Grieve author Judy Tatelbaum lists the strengths that help us accept death: knowledge, a support system, knowing one’s purpose, courage, and emotional maturity. During my first year of grieving I turned to Tatelbaum’s book so much I felt she had written it for me. I thought about her list of strengths and put them to use. You may be feeling opposite emotions now. How can you cope?

Research grief. There’s a wealth of information online and in public libraries. Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska, the largest and oldest grief center in the US, has a wealth of information.

Check your support system. A system that functioned well five years ago may need some updating. Is the contact information correct? Do you see any gaps?

Keep a journal. Putting thoughts into words can be very beneficial and help you make sense of what’s going on. You will re-discover yourself in the words you write.

Re-think your purpose. Becoming a guardian altered my purpose. The new one: Protect the twins, nurture them, encourage them, and love them more each day. Everything else in life was secondary.

Tap emotional maturity. According to Tatelbaum, “Emotional maturity is the willingness to acknowledge and cope with reality, to experience and express our feeling; it is also a kind of resilience, a capacity to bounce back to ‘normal’ after we have faced stress.”

Be selective about advice. Grief expert Helen Fitzgerald offers other suggestions in her book, “The Grieving Teen.” Well-meaning friends and relatives will say dumb things, she notes, and some comments may come from their discomfort with the topic of death. You have the right to ignore these comments.

Grief tests us and we are stronger than we know. We can draw upon our strengths, use our minds, acquire new coping skills, and craft a future.

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson, BS, MA has been an independent journalist for more than 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the MN Coalition for Death Education and Support. Hodgson writes for www.ezinearticles.com and has earned top status. A prolific author, she is the author of hundreds of articles and 31 books. All of her writing comes from experience and heer recent books focus on grief recovery: * Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss * The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul * 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope * Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life * Writing to Recover Journal (with 100 writing prompts) * Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, co-author In 2007, after her daughter's death and former son-in-law's death, she became a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren. Her latest book, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adapting to Life's Surprise, came from this experience. In addition to writing books, Hodgson is a columnist for "Caregiving in America" magazine and Assistant Editor of ADEC Connects, the electronic newsletter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A popular speaker, Hodgson has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer's, hospice, and grief conferences. She has appeared on more than 160 talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations/programs, including CNN. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors and other directories. She lives in Rochester, MN with her husband and twin grandchildren. Please visit www.harriethodgson.com for more information about this busy author and grandmother. Books by Harriet Hodgson The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon, www.amazon.com 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope, available from Amazon, www.amazon.com Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon, www.amazon.com Writing to Recover Journal, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, Co-Author, available from Amazon, www.amazon.com

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