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The Answer to Grief: Intentional Joy 

by Aleasa Word, FAACT’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

March 2024

Social media and news outlets have no problem bombarding us with the sadness they call news. Oh, how my heart yearns for happier reports coming across my email or social pages. What can we do to make things different? How can we add joy to our lives despite the times we are living in?

Something we must remember to do is to be grateful every day. You see, grief knows no race, religion, age, or gender. It knows no orientation or social economic class. It shows up at random times, and no one is joyous to see it come. How do we combat this feeling that plagues all of humanity? Intentional joy is the answer. We must seek out joy in our communities and in one another; remembering that we all experience the ups and downs of life. We must learn to embrace our fellow humans knowing that they too could be experiencing tough times.

Why is this especially important for the food allergy community? Despite any differences we may have, we have shared concerns - food allergies and anaphylaxis. We did not choose this for our bodies, yet we live with it and manage it in a world full of food and hidden dangers. When my daughter was diagnosed many years ago, I recall being very sad when I went grocery shopping armed with a list of the allergens we needed to avoid. It seemed like every food we tried to get was problematic. This was prior to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that went into effect in 2006. An overwhelming feeling of grief hit me right in the middle of an aisle of the grocery store. Having to avoid 13 foods and still give my daughter the nutrients she needed seemed impossible. It was that day that I made a choice. I couldn’t let the feelings I had take over what was most important. My beautiful little girl looked at me just as bright-eyed as ever without a care in the world. Despite my grief, I had to purposely choose joy.

What if we chose joy daily despite the prescriptions, food restrictions, and naysayers who have a hard time believing the reality of food allergic living? What if we saw one another in groups online and in person as humans fighting the same battles and shared just a little more joy with one another even when we disagree on how to manage things in our daily lives? Imagine how much greater our world would be. Imagine how much more empathy, compassion, and a connectedness we would feel. This would boost our ability to see things in a better way, regardless of any obstacles we face. With all that we manage on a day-to-day basis, this is what we are all deserving of in the food allergy community: JOY!