Image by Andre Hunter

I was pouring a glass of champagne and getting ready to sit down to watch the Grammy Awards on Sunday when I heard the devastating news that Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 other souls died earlier that day. 

My enthusiasm for seeing all the red carpet glam quieted into whispers of heartache as I looked at the candle burning by the TV to honor what would have been my mom’s 71st birthday.

I felt the pain in my gut of losing her in 2003. I felt sorrow for the agony the families of the deceased were feeling. And I felt the collective pain in my chest of all the losses we endure on this planet every day.

I no longer felt like champagne. 

I sat down on the couch curious how everyone at the Grammys was going to show up. Would they gloss over the recent tragedy to keep a high vibe throughout the night? Or would things be super sad? 

Alicia Keys took the stage and immediately called upon the audience to hold space for Kobe and his loved ones. Then, she said something I wasn’t expecting. 

She invited everyone to celebrate. 

To offer the sweet melody of music as a healing salve for the pain and agony people were feeling. To come together as a community in the sacred space of artistic expression. And celebrate they did.

Each performance that evening was a masterful symphony of the full emotional spectrum we experience throughout life. Prayers were said. Laughter was heard. And our hearts were moved to dance, sing, and cry. 

That’s the power of celebration. 

Making room for celebration in times of grief is exactly what is needed to ease our way through the layers of loss. 

The problem is we’re not doing this enough. 

We leave celebration out of the picture when loss and change knock on the door.  We only make room for devastation and sorrow and neglect the other end of the emotional spectrum – the immense joy, exhilaration, and freedom that can also exist in the face of heartbreak. 

Death is unavoidable. Change and loss are constant. 

And it’s time we get great at welcoming them into our world with as much openness as we do a newborn baby.

Why not allow ourselves to feel the angst along with the awe that is the gift any change or loss brings? 

It starts with inviting celebration in. 

Rather than shut celebration down in times of loss because it feels wrong, sacrilegious, or crude, get curious about what it would be like to let joy mingle with grief. 

Let yourself entertain playing an uplifting song while crying. 

Dance while suffering. 

Surround yourself with others who bring a lightness to the dark. 

As you make more room for celebration, you are able to witness the emergence of some magical, unexpected gifts: 

Gratitude. Compassion. Forgiveness. 

The necessary ingredients that will carry you through the layers of heartbreak with gentle ease.