Grief shared is only half grief; joy shared is double joy.
– Honduran Proverb
We humans are a social race. Yes, we value our independence, our solitude, our time to ourselves, and admittedly, there are some humans that thrive on being alone (the rest of us tend to call these people a hermit, anchorite, ascetic, eremite, misanthrope, pillarist, recluse, skeptic, solitaire, or solitarian). For the most part, though, we thrive on being around other people. This is part of the reason we build large cities and small communities to live around other people with similar interests.
The only way to advance ourselves as a race is through social connections. It seems as though individual men and women are provided with credit for grand achievements, and groups are forgotten. This is understandable, as we, as individuals, enjoy the feeling of importance and pride that comes with being given credit for great things. The reality, though, is that behind every great success story that surrounds an individual, there is a story about a partner, or a group of people that the person used as leverage and support to accomplish the things he or she accomplished.
Jesus Christ had the 12 apostles. Queen Elizabeth had William Cecil and a full council. Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. Name any distinguished leader and you will be able to follow their story and see the interactions and leverage they created through the strength of their adherents.
Strength in Numbers
Have you ever tried to do a large task by yourself? It is a temptation by many of us to believe that we have the ability to perform grandiose achievements without the aid of others. While this may sometimes be true, for large tasks, this usually yields lower quality, longer timelines, and greater stress.
Building a house is a good example. There are multiple aspects to building a house that is structurally sound, safe to live in, environmentally friendly, and a pleasure to call home. The foundation must be set correctly, the frame must be built correctly, the insulation, flooring, roofing, walls, plumbing, fixtures, electricity, heating and cooling, all must be built correctly. Having a general knowledge of all these aspects of a home might put one in a position that allows this to be done, but the likelihood for mistakes and errors goes up significantly. Increased errors and mistakes leads to the project taking much longer than anticipated, and increases costs severely.
General contractors know that by hiring specialists to handle the different aspects of building a home, they are able to leverage the power of the specialized knowledge and ability of those sub-contractors. The job is usually done faster, and in many cases, much cheaper than if just one person tried to do the job by his or herself.
You know the expression, “two heads are better than one”. Those of use with a knack for independence may have a tendency to scoff at this phrase (I know I used to – and still struggle with it at times). The reality embedded in that statement is undeniable, nonetheless.
Grief Shared Is Only Half Grief
Grieving is a deeply personal process. Depending on the circumstance, we may want to cry, sob, drink, meditate, or pray. Seldom do we believe that we want others to be around while we are grieving. We want to be left alone, or we put on a charade amongst the people in our lives that attempts to convince them that we are strong, and that we are not grieving at all. Lying to ourselves and those around us, we increase the negative energy that surrounds the circumstance that causes us to grieve in the first place, further escalating the pain that is felt.
There is no set timeline for grieving. There is no established process that works for everyone. Grieving is different for everyone, and in every circumstance. However, those who open their hearts to the grieving process, and welcome love, encouragement, and assistance find themselves able to manage the emotions with greater ease and less stress.
Notice I didn’t say negative emotions. Grieving is not negative in any way. It is a natural process that all of us must go through in our own way to cope with a loss. The sadness, fear, anxiety, and other so-called negative emotions are simply naturally reactions to the circumstance. They should be embraced for what they are, and then we should move on. It is a ridiculous notion for me to believe that I can get through a grieving process without experiencing any sadness or “down” emotions. I am much better off acknowledging that those feelings are only natural, and that I should embrace them while they are here, and then move past them when I feel I have the strength and positive mindset to do so. When I follow this mindset in any grieving process, I find that I’m able to open up to those around me much quicker, and I am able to get through the grieving process faster, and with greater mental strength.
This experience is further enhanced when I include the other people around me in my grieving. No, this doesn’t mean I bring it up with every person I come into contact with, that wouldn’t be healthy either. Instead, those that offer support and encouragement, I openly accept. I don’t hide my emotions and pretend I’m not saddened or otherwise feeling down. I don’t lie to myself or the people around me, and I open myself to the positive influx of love and joy from others around me in a position to give it freely.
The people that aren’t going through the same grieving process as you are are the people in a position to be able to help you get through it. They are in an emotional place that allows you to share the burden of the negative emotions, and through that sharing, disperse their pain. It may seem selfish to lean on others in a time of grief, but when done only with those that offer the shoulder to lean on, there is nothing selfish about it. When we lend ourselves to those going through the grieving process, we do so because we want to help; we want to share the burden, to facilitate the process moving faster.
Joy Shared Is Double Joy
Ah joy, happiness, glee, bliss, delight, elation, jubilance. To be in a good spirits is my favorite place to be. The second half of the Honduran proverb couldn’t be closer to the truth. When we share our joys with others, we truly experience even greater joy.
It can be a challenge for those that are on the receiving end of someone else’s joy to be as elated as they are. Our pride and ego can impede our natural desire to be happy as well. When we see someone else experiencing positive, many times excited joy, we can be envious of that joy. This is the wrong mindset, even if the joy is being experienced by our worst enemy.
Positive emotions have amazing energy potential. When someone is experiencing joy, and they choose to share it with us, we should welcome it with open arms and minds, ignoring our own impulse to be prideful or arrogant. By openly sharing in the joy and positive experience that surrounds it, we open ourselves to experience our own joy and happiness.
You’ve no doubt experienced this yourself. When your friend is excited about a big promotion, and calls you to celebrate, and you openly express your joy for their good news, you experience a shift in your own circumstances. The positive energy of their circumstance flows over you and engulfs you, creating a blanket of positive emotions, and therefore increasing your own positive circumstances.
The way I like to think about it, is that there really is nothing for me to gain out of being negative about someone else’s joy. If I act upset that someone I know is being promoted, and I’m not, or is making a bunch of money, and I’m not, I do nothing to encourage the same things to come to me. In fact, I am actually repelling those things by being prideful and negative about it. I associate those things with negative emotion, pushing them away from me.
By intentionally focusing on being genuinely happy and joyful at their positive fortune, I attach positive emotions and positive energy to the raise, promotion, or whatever it is that I want in my own life. By increasing my positive mindset surrounding those things, I encourage those things to be attracted to me like a magnet.
The same goes for when I’m experiencing joy myself. When I openly share the joyful circumstance with others, I give them an opportunity to share the joy, thereby increasing my own joy that I get out of the situation. We should never hold back our joy out of fear that it won’t be well-received. If we share our joy, and it’s not well-received, we should simply move on, not letting anyone stifle the wind that is currently pushing our sails. When we share our joy, and it is warmly received, our own joy is multiplied, and our companion gets to increase their own joy.