Chatting in Chattanooga

  • JD Harper

Finding Happy In the Sad: Dealing With Grief This Time of Year

Sunset Rock Lookout Mountain, TN

“Life can turn on a dime.” Who’s familiar with this saying? It’s a sentiment that can apply to both the good and the not so good that life has to offer, but it has been my observation that it’s a comment thrown around when the “not so good” things are happening in life.

To say the events of my life leading into this Christmas season have been different would be an understatement considering the changes that my family and I have experienced. Two days before Halloween, our almost 14-year-old miniature Schnauzer, Tramp, had to leave us. And although I knew deep down inside that he was “getting sick” with what I suspected was kidney failure, I was utterly and completely shocked to find that he had numerous health issues in play by the time we arrived at the 24/7 emergency animal hospital. To wrap one’s head around the information being tossed at you as you make decisions in the moments of crisis, is nearly impossible and quite honestly, cruel. But, as another saying goes, “You pick yourself up and carry on,” which is what I did after the realization that my beloved Tramp would not be returning home with me the same way that he had left home with me earlier that day.

In the times when it feels like the stresses of life are just too much for me, and I question my ability to handle it, I find myself falling to the words of legendary women’s college head basketball coach, Pat Summitt. In an interview from many years ago, when asked how she dealt with the stresses of life, she said, “I tell myself: right foot, left foot, breathe, repeat.” Try it. Such a simple sentiment that is powerful in its directive.

Two days after burying Tramp, my father-in-law, the patriarch of the family, experienced a health event requiring hospitalization, which paved the way and quite honestly helped to prepare us for his leaving us exactly three weeks later on Thanksgiving. Now, a whole lot of stuff happened in those ensuing weeks, but our brains have a unique way of getting us through the rough spots. For me, Pat Summitt’s words played on a loop in my head, and because I am a firm believer of the importance of talk therapy for mental health, I reached out to those in my world with whom I can talk, and they listened.

Losing the people and things we love hurts, a lot, both mentally and physically, but we are not alone in our response. It’s a condition of being human. Loss of those we love is inevitable; we all know this, for the second we are born, we start to die. I have discovered that the key for me during my times of grief is remembering my center of happiness from which I function and which grounds me. Knowing there will be times when I drift from my center as life hands me the not so fun things, but as long as I know where my happy lies, I know I will be fine and survive all life has to offer: the good, the bad and the ugly, as the saying goes. It may not always be easy or fun and there will most certainly be times that I am sad, but I choose to be happy with the sad.

In preparing to write this week’s post, I knew that I would speak to loss and grief, but it was at my father-in-law’s visitation and funeral service that it came full circle for me, and I knew I would write this post with an emphasis on happy. You see my father-in-law was 94 at his passing, and the adjective used to describe him over and over again was happy: “Jerry sure was a happy man, he knew how to be happy, Jerry had a happy life.” Gee, I sure hope people will say that about me when I’m gone. Irony strikes me as I write this post because it is through our loss of him from this Earth that all those who knew him are reminded that to live a good, long life: be happy.

As I head into this Christmas season, I refuse to be sad. I choose to be happy for all the wonderful memories with Tramp of Christmases past, and when the Harpers gather this December 25, Paw, as he was known to us, will surely be present as he lives on in so many of the Harper clan.

No matter how you deal with the not so good events of life, I hope you remember to be happy in all things good and bad as you make your way down life’s road...right foot, left foot, breathe, repeat.

Happy Holidays!

Right foot, left foot, breathe, repeat

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