My mom's father died early in the morning on Sunday, January 25th. My dad's father died in his chair on Thursday, February 5th. My grandmother thought he was napping. Their funerals were less than two weeks apart--one death expected, one a complete shock, both hard.
In addition to the grief, an elephant on my chest, I've spent 16 of the last 22 days on the road. My girls have missed three weeks of school. I still have laundry from Christmas.
This has been a difficult month.
Friday was a difficult day. To start, I took a nap from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. When I woke up, I cried off and on for most of the evening, culminating in a solid hour weep. My husband sat beside me being compassionate and wonderful. When I finished crying I decided to go to sleep again. I went to bed exhausted from being exhausted.
Saturday, I woke up and decided I didn't want to be sad anymore.
So I did these five things, the five things I always do when I want to be happy:
1. I read my Bible.
I got out of bed, made coffee and read Acts chapter nine out loud to my girls. Eve stopped playing with her play dough. London put her iPad down. And the three of us jumped into a good story about a good God, about transformation and a living kingdom. When I finished, I felt full and strong.
"My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word." Psalm 119:28
2. I exercised.
I drove to the YMCA, got on the elliptical, and persisted in physical activity until I'd worked up a sweat. When I finished I felt like a fog had lifted.
"Exercise increases energy levels and increases serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved mental clarity." Web M.D.
3. I prayed.
I grabbed my husband, held his hands and we prayed God's blessing on our family. We prayed for peace and patience, for joy and hope, for the strength to get through the day. We prayed God would help us face the future one day at a time. We finished and I felt at peace.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
4. I spent time with people I love.
After the gym, my family of four hopped in the truck and drove to lunch. We talked and laughed and dreamed about getting a dog. I noticed how witty Eve is and how compassionate London is and how tender my husband is. We finished up our food and got up from the table and I felt joy.
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? I Thes. 3:9
5. I did something for somebody else.
The girls and I spent the rest of the day baking, decorating, and delivering three dozen cookies. We walked around our neighborhood knocking on doors and handing over plates of of Valentine's Day treats. The girls gave cookies to people walking their dogs, to the new single guy who said these cookies would be dinner, and to a shut-in across town who couldn't have been more pleased. We finished and I felt blessed.
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
You can't always make sadness go away. Sometimes you shouldn't even try. There's wisdom in mourning. But often, sadness is perfectly lift-able and instead of tackling it, we let it tackle us. We wallow and wait, assuming some day the sadness will go away on its own. That rarely happens. Sadness, unchecked, grows and deepens.
My advice to you if you're sad and wish you weren't is to do the five things on this list every day. This list has saved me from grief and pulled me back from the first waves of depression. It's my go-to happiness plan. Because it works.