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Finding Moments of Joy During a Time of Grief

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

...weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken." O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; - Psalm 30:5

Life’s Highs and Lows

One of the happiest days of my life was on July 22, 1989, the day that I married and pledged my eternal love to Maury, the love of my life. Joy again graced our marital life with the blessed birth of our children in 1993 and in 1996. Through the years, our healthy marriage had its high and low moments; for it is true that life is fraught with many highs and lows…moments that are good and not so good.

During our 33 years of marriage, we experienced many of those situations – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet we experienced many more joyful times. We were no different than many couples. Although I had many joyful moments over my lifetime, including starting a new job at Princeton University three days after I took my husband to the emergency room, I wasn’t prepared for the saddest moment to come, which was the absolute worst gut-wrenching experience of my life.

On December 12, 2022, my life partner, my loving husband, my strong protector/provider, and the doting father of my children passed away. For over 30 years, my husband was under a doctor’s care and managed Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). However, COVID-19 disease was the catalyst for taking the life of such a vibrant man who was so full of life and who NEVER appeared gravely sick.

Though his vital signs and test result numbers were not good when I took him to the hospital on December 2, 2022, for emergent hemodialysis and subsequent treatment for double pneumonia, I expected him to make a full recovery so he could get back to golfing and the other activities he loved. I made plans with the hospital staff to find post-discharge dialysis care. I truly expected him to come back home to me.

When I got the call from the hospital that he was in cardiac arrest, it was like I was in a dream state. It didn’t seem real, and I could not grasp what the doctor told me. I felt like I had an out-of-body experience and like my soul briefly left me. As the team tried to intubate him for ventilation, his heart simply stopped. They revived him, but his heart stopped once more never to beat again.

When my husband passed away, it was shocking, and it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. I needed him to live, but now after thinking everything through, Maury did not want the emergency hemodialysis and only did it because I begged him to. My love and desire for him to live were very strong. I was not ready for him to leave me. I always felt safe with this humble man with a fifth-degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do who was always gentle with me.

My Grief Stages

Although I understand the spiritual implications of what I’m going through, that doesn’t make the reality of the situation easier. When we lose a loved one, grief and mourning can look and feel different for each person. There are times when I am sad and I cry and other times when I laugh about something he said or did. My grief has been a rollercoaster of emotions. What I’ve come to understand about grief is that it comes in stages. The five grief stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance – which can be experienced and even repeated in any particular order.

At first, I was shocked and denied he had left. I have experienced a flood of emotions while grieving. Even in my moments of sadness, I’m fortunate to have never felt a day of hopelessness. During my moments of anger, I felt like I was robbed of having more time with him. The pain was so great at times I physically felt my heartbeat change and my blood pressure elevate. In addition, my appetite changed, I had sleepless nights and was exhausted. Anxiety crept in as well as and I felt disorganized and out of control for doing the simplest tasks.

The things I’ve done (and still do) to deal with grieving include:

  • Praying every day for GOD’s strength to get through each day, and it really has helped. The prayers of others have helped too. I truly feel their prayers and get strength and energy from them.

  • Allowing myself to feel all aspects of grieving so that the feelings are not suppressed, which can cause emotional distress.

  • Not allowing myself to become hopeless, is very important.

  • I am maintaining normal daily activities. Because I’m an ambivert who leans mostly toward being an introvert, I have moments when I love being in my space enjoying my alone time, but I also make it a point to see people and enjoy every aspect of life outside of my home.

  • I listen to music every day because it calms me. Certain songs that I listen to remind me of him. As I close my eyes and think of him while certain songs play, I think of the moments we had while listening to those songs together. Those moments make me happy.

  • Though I still have bouts with anxiety, I have learned to manage those moments better.

I have finally come to the point of accepting the fact that I’m now a widow. Although I struggle with saying that word, I understand that is my new reality. My husband won’t be coming back physically to be with me, but I will always have him in my heart. That does bring me some joy because my superhero husband who knew Jesus as his Savior has become supernatural; so I’ll see him again one day. Grieving is an ongoing process with no definitive end date. However, as I pass through the pain with GOD, I see and feel joy. I see and feel hope. I see and feel love.

Antoinette Johnson is a native New Jersey resident with a Master’s degree in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction specializing in English and Language Arts. For her work with My Life Now magazine for the Community Living Education Project, two Community Media Excellence Awards were awarded to the project. She is the author of the books No More Hair Drama and 12 Days: A Story of Faith, Hope, Healing, and Victory along with her blog Living In Your Moment. This HGWFOM blog contributor’s literary works and own designer products may be found at

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