Joy Comes Back

Healing a Heart
By Sara Barry

The first few notes of the song swelled. I felt the music, smiled, then felt my chest tighten with memory.

I wanna be ready.

Earlier this month, my husband and I went up to Ashfield to see Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem. The place was packed; the kitchen backed up; the crowd loud over the band during the first set.

As we waited for our burgers, I told my husband that the first time I had heard Rani Arbo was at the Green River Festival. “Remember that time when Kath had free tickets and Kathleen was a baby?” He nodded.

I had been reluctant to go. Kathleen wasn’t sleeping, and we were deep in the second year after Henry’s death. While my healing had taken a huge leap when Kathleen was born, I was still wiped out by early grief and learning to navigate the world with a baby who died and one in arms.

I was tired, physically and emotionally. And it was raining. But I went.

In a tent out of the rain, I listened to music, let it flow through me. And then this song started low and slow. It started with the weight of where I was:

I wanna be ready.
I wanna be read-y.
I wanna be ready. 
When joy comes back to me.

And then it exploded into its own joyfulness, and I couldn’t help but dance.

You know how a smell can bring you back? How one minute you’re washing your hands then the smell of hospital soap puts you right back in the NICU, the worry and fear alive again in your body?

Music can do that to. When I heard the opening notes of “Joy Comes Back,” for just a minute, I felt the lost, heavy feeling of that second year of grief. I had to take a deep breath. I stood still, letting it flow through me.

And then it left, as I knew it would. It’s been eight years since Henry died, and those core sorrow moments, still come, but they pass. They move on without leaving me searching for a chair or a dark corner to curl up in.

Back in 2008, when Kathleen had pried open the tight protective fist I had wrapped around my own heart, joy had seeped back into my life. That joy was deep, but I still wanted more joy, more light in my life.

I wanted to be ready. And I was.

I knew, even in the depths of grief, that joy would come back. I knew it even when I couldn’t fathom how or really conjure up what that might feel like. I just kept opening. I felt my sorrow fully, and I felt the joy that way too.

I write a lot about the moments that almost break me, the times when heavy darkness sits with me. I write about that because it’s where I need to work through things and because the sorrow is still here, eight years moving into nine. But it isn’t all sorrow. Joy has come back. If it hasn’t come back for you yet, be ready. Let it come.