• Dr. Melissa Baartman Mork

Grief and Joy Coexist

Writing prompt: car

San Diego

My university financially supports the professional development of faculty, so I was able to attend the annual conference for the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) in San Diego last weekend. It was going to be great!

But San Diego was Scott’s and my favorite vacation spot. And so going to San Diego without him was going to be really hard. I was looking forward to seeing my AATH family, but also dreaded being in that city without my husband.

I arrived early on Thursday, and made a conscious choice to turn my face directly into the wind of grief.

I rented a Mustang convertible (Scott used to laugh at how much I love convertibles). I put the top down and turned the music up, and I drove around to our favorite places:  the “Unconditional Surrender” statue where we would always reenact the soldier and nurse’s kiss, Old Town, La Jolla Cove and the Children’s Pool, etc. I said goodbye to him in every spot, and then drove to the next.

I ended the tour at our favorite restaurant at our old hotel, where we ate so many breakfasts overlooking the marina. I savored my lunch while listening to seagulls and reading my journal from one year ago, when all of this grief began.

My tears salted my salad.

Then I paid the check. Drove back to the rental place. Dropped off the car. And went to the conference.

The Conference

First of all, I was immediately surrounded with affectionate hugs and kisses from friends I hadn’t seen all year. They enveloped me with love and support. But, keep in mind, this is a fun-loving group congregated for the sole purpose of studying humor and laughter, so every hug usually ended with us laughing over something!

And the content at this conference was amazing! The theme was on resilience, and what better content for me right now? For example, I learned you can apply the rules of improv in grief work (Thanks, Julie Ostrow!) WHAT!? I can use improv techniques in grief work? This is a new paradigm for me, and I can’t stop thinking about how I’m going to apply this – both personally and professionally!

Throughout the entire conference I laughed until my abs hurt; smiled until my cheeks hurt. At the end of the banquet on Saturday night, I danced until my feet hurt. And by the time I left on Sunday, I had loved until my heart hurt.

I was stopped in the lobby of the hotel as I was ready to check out. My friend, Barbara Grapstein, seemed almost relieved when she said, “Melissa, it was just so good to see you dance last night. It was so good to hear you laugh so much all weekend. You just look so happy.”

I am. Sincerely.

If I’ve learned one thing through this grief walk over the past year (since his diagnosis), it’s that I can be both. I can grieve and still be happy. I can be so desperately sad, and then laugh. I can be afraid of the future, but also be completely in love with what the future might hold for me.

I am learning that grief and joy can peacefully, beautifully, co-exist.

#AATH #laughter #Grief #humor #joy

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