How Can You Smile After Tragedy?

Why was that man from yesterday’s post smiling? After all he went through — the Resistance, the Holocaust, wars, and on and on, how dare he smile?

There are some of us who prefer to keep the thorny crown of martyrdom on our head and never smile. We think that if we smile, it will prove that we didn’t suffer all that much. Our misery will show the world how much hurt we went through, how much pain we endured.

But smiling doesn’t negate our sufferings. Smiling doesn’t mean our suffering wasn’t so terrible.

We can smile because we were resilient and strong. We made it through terrible tragedies. We can smile to show that we were courageous enough to live through what we lived through. It is our testimony, our acknowledgement, of the human spirit.

I’m not saying to smile dumbly, in denial, and not feel our pain. We have to feel our pain. As my friend, Kate, always said before she died, “We have to grow through – and not just go through – our pain.” We can weep with a full heart and feel all our pain but we can also allow ourselves to smile with a full heart, too. To laugh, even.

“Birds sing after a song; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” said Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy — who, just to remind you, endured the violent deaths of three of her sons, and endured a hundred other private tragedies.

And another thing: we don’t smile because we’re happy. We’re happy because we smile. In this case, the chicken comes before the egg.  Physiology-speaking, we can make a conscious decision to choose happiness by smiling.

Take a deep breath. Deeper. Hold it in for a moment. After you exhale long and slowly, smile. You’ll be amazed at this sensation. Even in the midst of a storm, you can find your own personal power. If you’re frazzled, frantic, frustrated and freaking out, take a deep breath,  hold, exhale, smile. Repeat.

Reminder: tomorrow is the big day! I’ll be sharing readers’ writing exercises — it only takes 5 (five!) minutes of your day to write this — from last Friday’s post. If you want a re-read, click here. If you haven’t done so, send in yours today!

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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1 Response to How Can You Smile After Tragedy?

  1. Pingback: mindful language, propaganda, lying, redistribution, conscious competence, and neuro-physiology « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

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