Joy in the Mourning

There is a verse from the book of Psalms: “Weeping may tarry through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” This verse (30:5) has been expressed as a phrase in popular culture, as a song lyric, even as a movie title for a 1965 romantic drama starring Richard Chamberlain. The other day, my friend and I were out on a walk, and she expressed the idea that there could be a play on words with this phrase, perhaps a double meaning. Is it morning, or mourning? I have found, over the years, that it may mean both.

Nighttime is definitely more difficult, in terms of mental or emotional state, in particular when suffering from anxiety, depression, or insomnia; the darkness seems to magnify any angst. From a doctor’s perspective, there is also a saying in medicine residency: everything gets worse at night. When covering the hospital, this is, like many clichés, amazingly true. Whether it’s pain, fever, delirium, hypotension, you name it–whatever the patient is experiencing, it is worse at 2 am and that is why the cross cover pager goes off constantly, to alert the newbie doctor who is least familiar with the patient that the crap is hitting the proverbial fan. Cross cover was never for the faint of heart; we used to have a mantra of sorts. Keep ’em alive until six thirty five. Sign out, of course, being at 6:30 am sharp. And the sigh of relief when you hand over that cross cover pager, just after the sun is rising—well yes, it did feel like joy coming in the morning.

And even mornings not spent overnight in a hospital feel the same way to me—the dawn of a new day, with the hope and promise that it brings, and the sense of a fresh start, no matter what we are facing. The light of day seems to bring more clarity, and the worries that kept us up the night before seem smaller, more manageable. For me, the quiet hours of the early morning while sipping coffee allow me to focus, and is often the best time of day to engage in writing.

Losing Mom, I am experiencing grief and loss, the most intense so far in my life; but I have also found that one can have joy in the mourning. I find joy when talking with Dad or my siblings about Mom, sharing stories, reminiscing about her, even sharing a laugh or two. I find joy when I think about how full she lived her life and how little she suffered at the end; she was blissfully unaware of what was happening, unlike someone facing terminal cancer. I particularly find joy in knowing she is in Heaven, experiencing the glory of God; I have not once pictured her looking down on me, or whispering in the trees or in the wind, because I know the things of this world pale in comparison to the glory of eternity. She is in Heaven with her face turned fully towards Jesus, what an amazing thought. And I believe this joy in mourning is meant to be what sustains us, what gets us through the grief and sense of loss, and gives us an antidote for the emotional pain.

And so yes, joy can come in the mourning. I welcome those pockets of joy, they are like a ray of sunshine briefly breaking through the clouds. And it is teaching me that a person can be both happy and sad at the same time; we can experience both joy and grief in the same moment, and indeed, create space for both. Recognizing this, and honoring it, will hopefully bring about even more instances of joy in these situations, helping us to cope.

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