Laughter Opens the Door
And Joy Comes Inside
“Don’t be concerned about being disloyal to your pain
by being joyous.” ~ Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
The first time it happened, I was confused—a stranger in an unknown land. I stepped off the plane of sorrow and into a foreign place, one where I didn’t know the language and was unfamiliar with the customs. But I knew that language at one time in my past. I had practiced that custom—often.
Where had I journeyed? Into the land of laughter, into the presence of joy.
Four weeks of soul-deadening grief had stripped my defenses bare. My husband, my fourteen-year-old daughter, and I mourned with unceasing tears the death of our child, the death of her sister. It was fitting that even in South Florida, those November and December pre-solstice days were dark, not only in our psyches, but also in the days that had so little sunlight. That lack of light mirrored how we felt as we trudged through the short days and longer nights that signal the most profound grief.
Nowhere was laughter present. Nowhere did joy show its face . . . until one evening at the dinner table. My daughter Vee said or did something zany and laughter seized the three of us. It grabbed us by the collars and refused to let go until its joyous peals rang through the house and echoed from the walls that had been painted with sorrow.
Laughter erupted from deep within each of us, released from that which had bound it for weeks.
Tears of mirth trickled down our cheeks, our noses ran, and we shook with glee. When my laughter faded, it struck me that it was the first time I had experienced joy since Alexa died. I felt no guilt. Never before or since have I been so aware of laughter—so aware of joy.
I welcomed the joy as I might a new friend into my life. My grief wasn’t over; it never will be over, but that laughter opened the door and let joy return to my life.
Often, after profound loss, we take on the cloak of grief as if it’s our new responsibility to wear it for the rest of our lives. We fear that if our sorrow leaves, our love for the one we lost also will leave.
Joy cannot and will not diminish the love we have for those we now grieve. Our pain and loss are not nullified when we once again seek, find, and welcome joy into our lives.
The joy that returns is the same joy that our loved ones brought to us during their lives—or we wouldn’t grieve them. It is the same joy that leads us to live meaningful lives in spite of loss—and sometimes even because of loss.
Laughter and joy bring light and even more love into our lives, and for that we should never grieve, but rather be grateful. Laughter and joy are the healing balm that mends our hearts.
In this holiday season and every season, remember to open yourself to joy, to open yourself to laughter, and to open yourself to love.