The moments when I began to feel happy again during my grief journey took me by surprise. Whether it was an evening out with friends, or goofing around with my boys, happiness started to slowly seep back into a life that was so black and cold.
We should welcome happiness in, not reject it, right?
It’s a sign that the grieving parent is healing, right?
It’s a good thing, right?
For many grieving parents, happiness in the wake of our loss can cause us to feel guilty. We feel as though we shouldn’t be happy again, after suffering such a profound loss. Staying in the dark, dank sadness, shutting out the sunshine and warmth of happiness, makes us feel closer to our deceased child. We loved them so much that we can’t possibly ever be happy again. These are the things we feel and think, and they are perfectly normal.
These conflicting emotions were a challenge for me, and in conversations with many grieving moms, I’ve discovered that this is a common occurrence. But, truly, any emotional state is unsustainable on a permanent basis. We can’t stay angry or sad or disappointed forever, and we won’t always be happy, either. After all, sad times help us to appreciate the happy times that much more. The contrast of our emotions gives life depth and breadth. With that in mind we must realize that in order to take care of ourselves, we must allow ourselves to be happy.
One of the things that helped me most to understand this was to think about how sad my children were when they saw me sad. When they caught me crying, they would be on the verge of tears. I realized that my boys didn’t like to see me unhappy. By extrapolation, it would follow that Colin wouldn’t want me to be sad all the time either. I know my children won’t always be happy, but I hope they are happy, or at least content more often than not. I had to consider whether or not I would want Colin to see me so unhappy, considering my unhappiness was a result of his death. I had to consider whether or not I would want him to see so much sadness within me as a result of his death.
My conclusion? I didn’t want that at all. I wouldn’t want to burden my son with my darkness. I gradually started to accept the light as it wedged its way into my life. My being happy didn’t lessen my love for Colin, not even a little bit. In fact, I like to think that when he looks down and sees us smiling, he is smiling, too.
P.S. Smiling actually makes you feel happier–biologically! When you smile, your body releases endorphins, serotonin and natural pain killers. So take a chance and smile. It doesn’t make your loss any less important. It doesn’t make you insensitive. It makes you human. Welcome happiness.