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  • The Vail Project

the opposite of sadness

This is the dictionary definition: “Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can't help but smile. It's the opposite of sadness. Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. ... The "pursuit of happiness" is something this country is based on, and different people feel happiness for different reasons.”

The opposite of sadness. Let that sink in for a moment. If being happy is the opposite of being sad, how will I ever be happy again? I won’t ever stop being sad about the loss of my child. Sad doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. I won’t ever stop missing her smile, her soft hands and her sweet baby kisses. I will always be devastated that Vail didn’t have a full life, complete with all the joys and experiences that it has in store for most of us. I could spend a day listing the things that she won’t ever do. There will never be an end to the sadness that fills my heart. So, then how can I possibly find any sense of happiness again?

The answer to that question is going to be very complicated. Nothing about grieving the loss of your child is simple. It is the most complex, convoluted, confusing version of torture imaginable.

As an intelligent, well-educated woman, with a minor in psychology, I can rationally agree with the proven science, that with time, this pain will change. It won’t ever go away, it may not ever even dissipate, but I do believe that as I continue to change the way I will grieve Vail will change too. I am not implying that there will ever be a day when the hole in my heart will heal up or stop aching. That. Will. Never. Happen.

”Happiness is sense of well-being, joy, or contentment.“. To this I emphatically say: Contentment? Never. How can I ever be content in a life without my child? How can I ever be content with a world where a perfectly healthy child can go to sleep and die? That isn’t a world in which I will ever find contentment. How can any of us have a true sense of well-being when we can’t find the answers to these tragedies? As a mom, my personal well-being is biologically linked to the well-being of my children. I know that I cannot and will not find these things, no matter how much time goes by. The only way I can continue to exist is to dedicate myself to prevention, awareness and research. Every single day. Until there are answers. Then, maybe, I‘ll find some self-satisfaction, but probably never contentment.

So how do people like us, parents who have lost their children ever find any happiness in life after loss? If I dig deep, I can usually find a singular moment of joy in each day. A second or two where I can look at what remains of my family and smile at the two of them, their beauty, and acknowledge the peace they bring me. That’s it though, a few measly seconds each day. This is where that pesky devil time comes in to play. Maybe after enough of it has passed, those few seconds will turn into a few minutes. Maybe in a decade or two, those minutes will become hours.

For the bereaved parent, every aspect of life is touched by loss. Hell, I can’t even go to the grocery store without breaking down. I see the things Vail loved to eat and I miss her. The cart will never be full, no matter how much I buy, because she is no longer in it. That time alone, it used to be like finding buried treasure. It has now become an unbearable burden. Praise the lord for Amazon free 2 hour delivery.

In the wake of our loss, I feel like the definition of the word “happy” has to be re-written. It could go something like this:

”a brief moment in time where the overwhelming burden of pain and emptiness lessens slightly, a sliver of sunlight in the vast darkness, no matter how fleeting. Finding a drop of joy in the present that isn’t stomped out immediately by a sudden inability to breathe. Accepting sadness as a constant companion“

That is my new definition of happiness. Because the absence of sadness just isn’t possible. Not anymore.

Now that I can view my life through this lens, the one where being happy doesn’t look at all like it did before, the idea of one day being happy seems less like an impossibility and more like something I can some day obtain. And so, I’ll do my best to push on and pray that a fleeting moment of true happiness is possible. Someday.

As Miranda Lambert wrote in her song Bluebird:

“And if the whole world stops singing, and all the stars go dark, I’ll turn the light on in my soul and keep a bluebird in my heart.”

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