Handling grief through happiness

Illustration of a blue happy face being given from one hand to another
Photo: © grgroup / 123RF Stock Photo

It was a midnight call that woke me up five years ago. A call from my wife who was on holiday in New York. “Bob, mummy passed away in her sleep!”

I was devastated. I was alone at home with the whole family in America.

“Ma,” I cried, “I’m sorry I didn’t come with the others to visit you!”

These and other cries came out of my grief-stricken mind.

I didn’t even want to get up from my bed in the morning as I lay weeping, and then the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a family outside. “We are supposed to stay with you…” said the old man.

“With me?” I wanted to cry, “Leave me alone, I have lost my mother!”

And then I looked at their weary faces. I remembered I had told my friend my place was available for his guests to stay during his nephew’s wedding.

“Come in!” I whispered and then for the next two days looked after them. I’m not saying my grief went away, but in their happiness there was solace. All I did was make coffee for them in the morning, see that their rooms were comfortable, that my dog did not disturb their little mentally-challenged son… did I feel my mother smiling?

There’s this story about a beautiful, rich lady who complained to her psychiatrist that she felt her whole life was empty, and that it had no meaning.

The counsellor called Mary, the old lady who cleaned the office floors, and told her to tell the depressed lady her story.

Mary said: “Well, my husband died of malaria and three months later my only son was killed in a car accident. I had nobody. I had nothing left. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I never smiled at anyone. I even thought of taking my own life. Then one evening a little kitten followed me home. It was cold outside, so I decided to let the kitten in. I got some milk, and the kitten licked the plate clean. Then it purred and rubbed against my leg, and for the first time in months, I smiled.

Then I stopped to think: if helping a little kitten could make me smile, maybe doing something for people could make me happy. So the next day I baked some biscuits and took them to a neighbour who was sick in bed. Every day I tried to do something nice for someone. It made me so happy to see them happy.

Today, I don’t know of anybody who sleeps and eats better than I do. I’ve found happiness by giving it to others.”

Yes, dear friend, sometimes in your deepest grief, making others happy can be the comfort you need!

“Ma, is that you smiling?”

Robert Clements
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Robert Clements

Robert Clements is a newspaper columnist with an estimated readership of 6 million. He also conducts a short-term writer’s course. Contact him on bobsbanter@gmail.com for more details.