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Do You Deny Yourself Joy?

My grandmother’s jewelry hangs in an organizer in my closet. I recently pulled it out from behind coats to find dust inside the pouches that neatly hold the precious metals, stones, and colors.

I touched a couple of the pieces she wore often, and that most reminded me of her. My chest ached and my eyes watered at the memory, wishing it was now, and feeling sad that it could no longer be.

Gladness and sadness both were present in that moment.

And I’m finding that both of these feelings must be present in order to experience true joy. Unfortunately, there are many hours in my day-to-day life where I keep true joy tucked away and hidden in order not to feel the other emotions that may come with it.

Finding earrings, necklaces, and watches from my grandmother tell stories that sometimes I do not want to remember because they create deep feelings in my heart.  While longing for someone that is not there can feel sad, I also get to feel deep gladness that she once was in my life.

In that moment with the jewelry, there was a gentle ache in my heart telling me to keep listening to the song of grief, but I also wanted to close the closet and turn it off. If I’d done that, it would have kept me from hearing the song of joy.

I need both songs. And the beauty is, these songs can be sung together.

Have you denied yourself joy at certain moments in your life? The more I reflect on my own story, the more I see patterns of joy watered down.

I remember playing it cool in middle school when I got the starting spot on the basketball team. Instead of embracing true joy (both sad for my friends who didn’t get to start, and glad that I got to), I began to feel nothing.  I did not want other people to feel uncomfortable with my joy.

Then nothing turns into numbing, and before long, it’s difficult to see how we got here.

I am discovering the more I ignore joy, the less I experience in life.

The good news is, the invitation to greater joy is always waiting for us.

So ask yourself, where in your life do you ignore joy (feeling both glad/sad)? Do you hold back your joy due to fear of what others might say? And how might the sting of joy begin to help you better experience life?

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.” ~Khalil Gibran

If you need help navigating grief or loss, we’re here to help. Connect with a Sage Hill counselor to set up an appointment today.


Christen Johnson is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, Tennessee. She spent her post-graduate internship at the Hope Clinic for Women in Nashville where she gained experience working with women in crisis pregnancy situations and with young women and men who struggled with depression, anxiety, relationship issues and personality disorders. She is also trained in Trauma-Focused Behavioral-Cognitive Therapy (TF-BCT).

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