Joy & Sorrow: a paradoxical & purposeful relationship

Joy & Sorrow: a paradoxical & purposeful relationship.

I want to speak to the paradox and purpose of Joy and Sorrow. These two opposing emotions often exist at the same time. Did you know that? Think about it…

It is all too present in this month of November for us in northwest Montana. For me personally, It’s a powerful month that kicks off with my birthday, followed by Election Day, family workshop week, Thanksgiving holiday, and wrapping up with opening day on the ski mountain. All these things can stir up JOY (yay friends and family coming together to celebrate me! Yay for the right to vote as a woman in this world after so many years of fighting! Yay for families coming together to grow and become more healthy together! Yay for the Harvest and nourishing food celebrated in community! Yay ski season in the gorgeous Montana mountains beginning!)

But we can’t ignore how these events stir up Sorrow (Wow my body doesn’t look or feel like it used to now that I’m middle aged… Wow the change I wanted to see in my political system didn’t happen… Wow the struggle and pain we just tapped into with this family system is deep… Wow I can’t be with my family, or this holiday is tough for my body image, or holds a rough anniversary memory… Wow the natural world around me is dying and it’s sooo dark…)

This is how paradox can be alive this time of year. Both emotions are true. And both are okay. In fact, dare I say both are needed in order for life to be fully experienced and appreciated! The importance and necessity of necessity of holding both in tandem is captured brilliantly in Kahlil Gibran’s chapter in the well-published book The Prophet. (Go look it up if you’ve never read it!).

Our students learn how to be in this paradox by LIVING it in a safe container built with a ton of intentional design. The paradox of joy and sorrow can be surfaced in our guiding phase program, the adventure day activities, the crafting of interventions monthly, the constellation of roommates, the groups offered… I could go on. So many layers of intentional mirrors to help surface this paradoxical emotional experience that is often the source of the disfunction that brings families to us.

Seeing it is the first step, and next we need to feel it to move through it. We do this by creating space for GRATITUDE and GRIEF. These are the tools needed to move through the tough, and towards health and wellness.

More than anything in my opinion, this skill of navigating joy and sorrow through Gratitude and Grief is taught through the people. Students often graduate here saying that the most impactful and life changing experience that they leave here with is genuine and authentic relationships. Teens are side by side fumbling and succeeding along this path. Learning from each other how to use gratitude and grief to transform their pain. Each adult at Chrysalis who walks the path alongside those we support is doing the same thing. We are asked to feel all the feels. To model, mirror, and validate the paradoxical truths that arise as we face the world in front of us. We all feel the mix of emotions when goodbyes need to happen to a staff member or a student at they transition from us towards their next chapters.

And honestly, it’s not easy or always fun- but it is also clearly fulfilling and the way it needs to be. The process is something I believe in. It’s what WE believe in. We must honor the whole of the human experience and journey. Both joy and sorrow.

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Chrysalis School