My birthday was October 3rd, 2 days after the mass shooting in my hometown. My husband surprised me with 4 tickets to “The Little Mermaid” at the Smith Center for our family. As we prepared to go, I found myself feeling guilty for being excited. How could I be celebrating when our community was facing such a devastating crisis? We went, had a great time, but I took no pictures and posted no updates of our celebration on Facebook.  I felt conflicted.

As I settled into my seat, I looked around at the crowd. Were they grieving too? How are they reconciling what happened just two days ago? The play began and I couldn’t help but laugh at the man who so artfully played Scuttle. I realized that play is important ESPECIALLY at a time like this. When something traumatic happens, we tend to shut down. Play and laughter can be a way to plug back in. Start to feel again. It is an important part of recovery. Giving ourselves permission to play can be a brave step towards reentering life anew, changed. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel sad. We can feel seemingly conflicting feelings at the same time.

I cannot begin to know what grieving people need as everyone’s journey is different and there are no timelines for grief. But, softening into joy and laughter helped me. So, here’s a picture of my son and I enjoying The Little Mermaid. Happy Birthday to me.