Emotions can be complicated, and our feelings are not simple or easily labeled when someone we love dies. There is sadness, there is grief. There may also be anger or confusion. Fatigue is common, and also often feelings of guilt. Sometimes people feel nothing at all. Those who are left behind might even wonder if they will ever feel happy again.
Some people find that it is easier to cope with a loss by burying all of their emotions. It seems to be a way to stop the pain. Happiness is avoided because if that emotion, ANY emotion, is felt then the door is open to the other emotions that are less pleasant. Unfortunately this also prevents any healing from happening. Ignoring feelings of sadness doesn’t make it go away, and it can actually intensify those feelings when they finally come rushing to the surface. That’s not to say that it is wrong to feel numb. There is no WRONG way to grieve. But it can be detrimental to stay numb for an extend period of time. Eventually we have to allow ourselves to feel again. That includes giving ourselves permission be happy.
Why would we need to do that? Maybe we feel we don’t deserve it. maybe we feel guilt over some circumstance of our loved one’s death and think we should give penance somehow. Maybe moments of happiness hurt too much because they cause us to miss that person too much. The sounds of laughter sting our ears because that one person can’t be there to share it with us.
Or maybe we feel guilty about feeling happiness because it might mean to others, or even ourselves, that we have moved on. Aren’t we supposed to feel sad? We don’t want anyone to question, even for a moment, how much our departed loved one meant to us. We might not be ready to “move on”. Real life might feel too difficult.
There can be any number of reasons why happiness is hard after a loss. Inevitably, however, we can and we will be happy again. It might be hard to believe, but it’s true. It might come after a long wait, and it might only be sporadic at first, but there will be moments where the sun peeks through the clouds and our hearts begin to feel warm again.
How can we help ourselves be ready to embrace happiness again?
First of all we must forgive. Forgive our loved one for leaving us, forgive ourselves for whatever guilt we may feel. Then we can also give ourselves permission to feel happy.
Once forgiveness has occurred we can focus on the love we shared instead.
Remembering our happy memories of someone who has died can help us smile and feel closer to them. Telling the stories to others can help, too.
Self-care is also a good way to find happiness. Exercise, spending time with friends, rest, or even a new activity can help rejuvenate the body and the soul.
You deserve to live again, hard as that may be at first. Embrace the love around you, seek out and celebrate the light. Find ways to help make the world a better place. If you do these things happiness can’t help but find you. Then when you have those moments of joy let them fill you and strengthen you to help get through the moments that are less than joyful, because they will still come. Being happy doesn’t mean that we will never be sad again, it just means that even when things are difficult we know that it will get better. We know that we can get through. We know that the sun will peek through the clouds again. We know the light will shine.
Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Funeral Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist
Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870