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  • Amber

On Masking Grief

Take a listen to the song above. It’s called “Joy” by Christian folk band Page CXVI. It starts out as a rendition of “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”, a popular and simple tune you’ve probably heard sung by children’s choirs, or that you sang yourself as a child. A bright happy tune, proclaiming the joy and love of Jesus.


However, it doesn’t take very long to realize that this song is not a happy song. The usual upbeat song is slowed down and pitched into a melancholic minor key; the cheery children’s song becomes practically unrecognizable. The changes tug at the heartstrings, a masterful depiction of a feeling we have all felt in our lives. These few changes are all it takes to make this a song about masking grief.

There are a million reasons why a person needs to ‘put on a happy face’ when they are anything but happy. It could simply be because it’s one of those days where everything that can go wrong did go wrong. It could be because life must return to ‘normal’ after the loss of a loved one. It could be because you’ve just read upsetting news happening somewhere else in the world and you must somehow go about your day with the knowledge that terrible things are happening and you can do nothing about it. It’s a very human experience, which makes this song so relatable.


The tension of the music crescendos, as the joy is practically being forced out. It's no longer only sad, but now there’s anger in it. Sadness and anger often go hand in hand. Feelings of frustration, disbelief, and unfairness are all reasonable things to be felt alongside grief. Society has taught many of us that these feelings are not ‘proper’ and we leave them to simmer, perhaps even feeling guilt for daring to even have these ‘inappropriate’ emotions.


But all of these feelings are okay to have and to feel. Emotions are messy and complicated and contradictory. Yes, there are times when they cannot be expressed, but take the time to express them in a time and space where you are comfortable and safe. Let the grief and the anger overflow as they do in the song. Acknowledge that pain.


Then, just as in this song, take a moment and breathe.

After that torrent of emotion, “Joy” ends with the refrain from “It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. There could be no more appropriate way to end this song with the message it is telling. “It is Well With My Soul” was sadly inspired by a shipwreck where all four of his children perished. But even through this terrible tragedy, this hymn tells us that God can still be found and that They are greater than the grief.


So take the necessary time to be sad. Be angry. Cry and shout and express everything you are feeling. God knows these feelings as well, and They will be there for you. There are no ‘inappropriate’ feelings when it comes to prayer. In fact, you should bring it all to bare, even the ugly parts. God can handle all those emotions far better than we ever could, so use the help They offer.


Then, once those feelings are out, take a deep breath and remember that God will always be there.

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1 Comment

Nov 08, 2023

This was so needed today. Was really helpful.

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