Finding Happiness During Grief
Guest post by Dr.Harshi Dhingra, Associate Professor in Pathology
Adesh institute of medical sciences and research, Bathinda
It’s unusual to hear people speak of “happiness” and “grief” in the same breath. It almost seems forbidden. Grief is a natural emotional state or experience over the loss of someone or something close. It evokes a different kind of sadness. It’s a type of sorrow that feels overwhelming and almost impossible to bear.
You can hardly think of anything else except how torn apart you feel. You want to escape the pain or make it end immediately. You want to find happiness again. And you can, without postponing the grief process. According to Mental Health America, allowing yourself to grieve is the best thing you can do.
Grief is a complex process involving strong emotions felt due to the loss of a loved one to death or divorce. It’s distinct from bereavement and mourning. People also experience similar emotions over the loss of something close or important such as a job, friendship, or pet. Grief is usually accompanied by intense physiological distress and a sense that you’re unable to cope.
Grief is a complex emotion because it’s essentially a blend of basic emotions such as shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, fear, helplessness, and sadness. It also looks and feels different to different people and in different cultures. For example, some people remain calm and expressionless. Others grieve by being furious. The various emotional states tend to show up at different stages of the grief process.
These stages can bring out different kinds of behaviors. Not everyone goes through all the stages or in sequence. Sometimes you think you’ve accepted the loss only to find yourself reeling again in anger or depression. That’s why it’s important to be patient and properly process grief. Otherwise, it can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even thoughts of suicide.
Physical and psychological symptoms may occur, including crying and sadness. Other symptoms include:
- Being preoccupied with the loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Insomnia, anxiety, or depression
- Weakness, lethargy, or fatigue
- Changes in behavior such as irritability, aggression, or hostility
- Panic, troubled breathing, or shortness of breath
Intense or prolonged grief may result in Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (Broken Heart Syndrome), heart rhythm disorders, or heart attack.
Trying to be happy in the midst of a loss can make you feel selfish or guilty. However, creating happiness is important for your well-being and may function as a healthy coping strategy. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your loved one or never cared.
And there’s no reason to feel guilty. You’re grieving the loss while still showing yourself compassion and love. In fact, you owe it to yourself to heal and recover without letting your physical or mental health deteriorate. Here are other ways to find joy again:
If you lost someone to death, it’s true that they are never coming back. No one can replace them either. But you can find comfort in the memories you shared. You also still have an opportunity to create new and happy memories as a way to honor your loved one.
Isolating yourself or withdrawing is a normal stage of grieving. However, it can lead to loneliness, deep despair, chronic depression, or even substance abuse. Choose to reach out and stay in touch with loved ones or people who are compassionate. You can also link to support groups in your area where you can share your experiences with people like you who are dealing with loss.
Expressing how you feel about something can take a ton of weight off your shoulders. Find a trusted and compassionate family member or friend who will listen to you without judgment. Tell them how you feel. The more you get the grief emotions out, the better you should feel with time.
It’s normal to ruminate over the loss, but this leaves little space to think about your peace of mind. Mindfulness is a type of meditation technique where you purposely focus on the present moment. Mindfulness involves acknowledging past events, your feelings, and thoughts for what they are, without labeling them or passing judgment.
It teaches you to be grateful for what is, to accept and let go of things you cannot control, and to move on. Mastering your mind while processing grief emotions allows you to consciously decide on being happy.
In a nutshell, you can find happiness and hope while grieving by:
- Acknowledging your pain
- Accepting that your emotions are normal and valid
- Understanding that you may handle grief differently from everyone else
- Taking care of your physical and mental health by staying optimistic
- Giving yourself time to recover
- Seeking support from those who care about you
Everyone handles loss differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. And there’s no quick fix. But while most individuals adequately recover within 6-12 months of the loss, others can’t seem to get past it. It may be time to reach out to a therapist or grief counselor if more than a year has passed. They can help you get through this rough patch if you have difficulties moving on or your physical or mental well-being is affected. Some therapists offer online talk therapy where you can attend from the comfort of your home.
mhanational.org – Bereavement and Grief
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Dealing with Stress, Anxiety, and Depression after Divorce
healthdirect.gov.au – Grief and loss
online.uwa.edu – Our Basic Emotions
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Grief Reaction
washington.edu – The Stages of Grief: Accepting the Unacceptable
cdc.gov – Grief and Loss
mindful.org – 5 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Us Work Through Grief