Thanksgiving is soon here. I was driving the other day and the radio station started to play Christmas music. My heart was full of joy and warmth. I love Christmas Carol. But suddenly, the moment of joy was snatched relentlessly by the thought:”How can you be this happy without Joey?” Overwhelmed with guilt and sorrow, I had to pull over, burst into tears.

I used to appreciate the little joys that give life meaning. The fluttering wings of hummingbird in the yard, the fragrance of jasmine in the air, the shooting stars zoomed across the sky, the crunch of autumn leaves under the feet…These small moments used to give me profound joys. They still do, but the difference is the complete brokenness that follows: all these small moments of joy is the cruel reminder of his absence.

As years go by, without knowing it, the pain became the biggest connection l had with Joey. Yet happiness became a betrayal of him. I did give myself permission to smile, to triumph over many things in life: his brother’s achievement, my students progress, Joey’s Wings work… But the thought keeps creeping back:”You don’t deserve to be happy again because you lost a child.” And the reason the intrusive thought won’t go away is because if l allowed myself to be happy, it would mean that I was okay with the fact that he had died.

This is a picture of Joey taken on November 26th, 2013 in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It was a harsh winter. His treatment didn’t work. We cried and prayed for a miracle to happen. But little did we know that this would be his last Thanksgiving. Next Thanksgiving he was gone.

The moment he died he took away with him all my joy on the earth. Hell began after his death. The loss cuts so deep, it is suffocating. There is no motivation to find happiness. For 8 years now, I was grappling with the thought: “If I stop feeling the deep pain of grief, it is a sign life can move on without him and I just won’t let that be true.” I am aware it’s not a healthy thought, but l am stuck, hopelessly.

Every week l Facetime my parents. They knew their daughter was never truly happy since Joey died. The FaceTime conversation always ends with their heartfelt wish: “please be happy.”

This Thanksgiving l pray that my parents’ wish could come true. I pray the hurting and joy can co-exit. I pray someday the joy can be full and overflowing. I pray somehow l could open a space in my heart to experience the moments of powerful joy. This Thanksgiving l will make an effort to let the light of joy shine gently into the shadows of sadness helping me find pockets of positive reflections to sustain me and move me forward.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. May your Thanksgiving be full of peace, love and joy.