Can grief and happiness coexist in the same mind at the same time? Some societal expectations say no. However, there is evidence that you can be happy while grieving. In fact, it may even be healthier for you.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The way a person deals with a loss can be very personal. Religion, place of origin, and familial relations are just a few contributors to how one may cope with and manage their feelings and attitudes. But regardless of your situation, it's possible to feel content, or even happy, while you're grieving.
In the following paragraphs, I will try to open your eyes to 7 reasons why it is OK, even healthy, to be happy while simultaneously grieving.
- Can you be happy while grieving?
- How long does grief last?
- What causes grief?
- 7 ways to find happiness while grieving
- Wrapping up
Can you be happy while grieving?
Have you ever been to a funeral or a memorial service? Did friends and family get up and talk? Maybe it was just the person officiating that spoke during the service. From my personal experience (and I have quite a bit of it!), when people get together to remember a dear one that has passed, they reminisce of the better times, the good times involving that person. Humorous stories are often told. Fun times revisited.
Retaining and holding dear these fond moments, and smiling over the stories told, does not diminish your grief in any way. It may, in fact, even help you move from grieving to happiness.
I am well aware that this is not always the case, however. Yes, you are allowed to be angry, depressed, miserable - any feeling you choose. Certain memories may sting. You can also choose to focus on the positive and push the scale a little closer towards peace and joy. This is nowhere near easy. It takes a lot of work and perseverance, as well as quite a bit of patience with oneself.
How long does grief last?
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote of the Five Stages of Grief in her 1969 book ‘On Death and Dying’. She listed these five stages as:
It is important to note that, although these grief stages are listed in this specific order, by no means will you follow through one to five in order. You may start with any stage or jump to random stages. You may get stuck in one or more of the stages. You may also go through any stage more than once. This was meant to be a fluid sense of grief stages, not linear.
All these stages do not answer the question though. How long does grief last?
While there is no set time limit on how long you are “supposed to” grieve, some say you could possibly begin to crawl out of the grief in approximately six to eight weeks. The same people said you could grieve for up to four years.
My grandma passed away 15 ½ years ago, and I still feel like I grieve her death.
What causes grief?
Grief can be caused by a whole laundry list of happenstances. Most often when someone hears that you are grieving, they immediately assume someone close to you must have passed on. This is not always the case. Some examples of other situations in which you might find yourself grieving are:
- Changing schools or jobs and leaving behind your friends.
- Loss of a limb.
- Decline in health.
- Loss of a friendship.
- Loss of financial security.
7 ways to find happiness while grieving
While each and every person deals with grief in their own personal way, I wanted to list a number of ways you can be a little (or a lot!) happier while grieving.
1. Smile and laugh
Such a simple act, and yet it does wonders for the body, mind, and soul. Have you ever tried smiling or laughing, and simultaneously being miserable? Now, I’m talking about a true, genuine smile or belly laughter.
Another great response to your smile or laughter is that it is so contagious! Imagine you are walking along and a stranger passes you. This stranger tells you good morning with a great big smile and a tip of his hat. What is your automatic response? Most people would return the friendly greeting with one of their own. Thus, we now have two smiles roaming about ready to multiply.
If you still need a reason, think “longer, healthier life” According to Psychology Today, smiling reduces heart rate and blood pressure and relaxes the body. Now that is something to smile about!
2. Find support from others
As tempting as it might be to burrow deep within yourself and hide your grief from the world - don’t!
There are therapists that specialize in grief counseling. Get together with your friends/family and bond over your shared grief. Social media is now becoming a more and more popular way to meet new people that understand what you are going through.
It may even be helpful to find a friend or family member that will hold you accountable. And I don't mean for the circumstances you happen to be in.
Find someone you trust and can open up to. Ask this person to check in on you regularly to see how you are coping. Be willing to share with them your thoughts and feelings. Make sure your buddy knows what it is you might be needing in different circumstances, and be willing to accept the help.
3. Identify your needs and make time for yourself
During the time your grief is weighing heavily on your shoulders, what is it that you can do for yourself that will help you in the moment, or in the long haul?
I’m not telling you to go max out all your credit cards and empty your bank account. Although maybe just a little shopping…
- Maybe you need time to meditate or pray every day.
- Take a long hot shower.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Be sure to also regulate your sleep.
Are you the artsy type? Draw, paint, color. Pick up a journal and pour out all your feelings there. Whatever healthy coping skills you can come up with, do them on a regular basis.
Here's an article that goes over ways to really take care of yourself first, or alternatively, here's another one that's about how to focus on yourself.
4. Set some healthy boundaries and stick to them
You may find yourself surrounded by too many friends and family members. They all have the best of intentions, but it can get overwhelming. If too many people are hovering too closely, kindly let them know they are crowding you. That you need a little bit of space. They may not realize they are overstepping.
You may be tempted to throw yourself into your work or other activities. Set boundaries for yourself as well. Here's how to set healthy boundaries for yourself and those around you.
5. Get back into your routine
Developing and maintaining a daily or weekly routine can help you move forward. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Read the newspaper while you are drinking your coffee or tea every morning. Go to worship on Sundays, or practice whatever religion you may have if you have one. Whatever you would’ve typically been doing before your loss, get back into the swing of it as soon as you feel ready.
This will promote some sense of normalcy in your life. And normalcy is what you may be needing. A new normal that may possibly include new routines. That is perfectly fine.
Sticking to your daily chores will help you prevent that huge stack of mail on the table from getting even bigger and toppling over. It will keep that shed dog hair from creating life-size replicas of the real thing. Basically, sticking to a routine will help stave off getting overwhelmed with the little things that could’ve been taken care of sooner.
If you're looking for a new habit for your mental health, this article covers a few!
6. If possible, avoid making major life decisions
This is good advice for any time you are feeling any intense emotions. Making rash decisions while you have heightened feelings of any kind can lead to irrational determinations or judgments. Which you may come to regret.
If you absolutely must deliver a directive that will alter your whole future at this moment, bring in another set of eyes to look it over and help you decide. Is quitting your job the right move? Should you really buy that house? Again, your accountability buddy can step in and help you make sound, solid decisions that you will be able to live with.
7. Do for others
I’m sure we were all taught the ‘Golden Rule’ growing up:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Or some version of it. This is something you should give some serious thought and consideration to. Of course, your preschool and kindergarten teachers will tell you to live by this ‘Golden Rule” every day regardless of your circumstances.
Just like smiling is contagious, when you volunteer or help someone else out, their joy and delight becomes your joy and delight. Helping those less fortunate is an excellent way to see how much you still have in your life. And how much you still have to offer others.
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Finding happiness while grieving is definitely possible if you put forth the effort. You need to start simple; by celebrating and enjoying the little things in life. Find that happiness glitter wherever it may be - no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Most importantly: go on to live your life to its fullest potential.
Do you think happiness and grief can coexist? Or do you want to share how you found joy during your period of grief? I'd love it if you shared your experiences in the comments below!