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Guilt is a pervasive emotion. While suffering unimaginable grief, such as losing a parent or loved one suddenly or after a long illness, can be all-encompassing, sometimes it isn’t the only emotion we feel. And the guilt at feeling something less than sadness can make us feel guilty. But it shouldn’t. In fact, it’s possible to feel conflicting emotions all at once — and yes, it is OK to feel happy while simultaneously grieving. It can be confusing sorting through all those emotions, which is why it helps to take part in bereavement services in Alameda County and elsewhere.

August is the 19th annual Happiness Happens Month, with this year’s theme being Be the Reason Someone Smiles. There are many scientific reasons why you should smile even in grief. First off, smiling is contagious. Studies show it is difficult to frown when looking at a person who is smiling. Smiling has also been linked to lower stress and blood pressure levels as well as an increase in endorphin levels, according to Psychology Today.

Conflicting Emotions During Grief: It’s Normal

It’s normal and common to hold opposing feelings at the same time, oftentimes with feelings that are layered with contradictions. It’s possible to be both angry and happy, sad and relieved, frustrated and grateful — all at the same time. It’s not wrong, it’s just the way we are wired. Our bodies and minds find a way to balance out emotions, striving to find the good in every situation. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It would be overwhelming to feel too consumed by grief at all moments of the day. Instead, we may find snippets of happiness even during a time of great turmoil and grief, such as when a loved one dies.

Perhaps it’s a way to remind ourselves that while our loved one has passed, we are very much alive and must carry on. We find distractions that keep us from folding in on ourselves, such as through work or having small children around to fuss over. Instead of pushing aside those difficult moments of grief, we should be open to both joy and pain at the same time, points out Headspace. When going through tough times, negative feelings can often be all-consuming, which is why it’s OK to search for small shimmers of light wherever you can find them.

Feelings of Happiness Can Accompany Transitions

Most of us are all too familiar with the grief associated with death, as we move through the stages of denial, anger and acceptance. But while we may feel sorrow and grief for our loss and transition, sometimes we don’t know where to put those feelings. When we feel happiness in times of sadness, we automatically feel guilt at having those feelings. We’re surprised, even. How can we possibly be happy in this moment?

It’s important to first face the complexity of the situation. Identify those bitter-sweet emotions of losing a cherished loved while at the same time appreciating the value of life and seeing rebirth in the eyes of your children. It could be the nature around you, or a kind act from a stranger. Whatever it is, embrace it, even if it is fleeting. These are the times that will get you through.

Even during the saddest funeral services, there are moments of joy and laughter, which showcases the varied emotions associated with grief, the combination of pain with pleasureful moments, says GoodTherapy. Keep in mind that grief is fluid and changes as time passes. Feelings of pain and fear can transform, grip us less fierce at times, and even become part of your everyday life. The grief and feelings of loss may peel back over time, then come back and hit you like a wave when you least expect it.

Some people get stuck in their grief—meaning there is no fluidity and it remains unchanging. Grieving in silence can make everything worse and cause us to stagnate where we are, stuck in a purgatory of grief. Happiness and joy can ease the pain, even for a moment, as it helps to surge the process forward. When in the midst of change and transition, think about what you are losing and what you are gaining. Rather than focus on the unpleasant aspects of change, think ahead to prepare when the inevitable feelings of loss and grief rise up to meet you.

In the end, it’s OK to be sad but not stagnant. How you navigate the intersection and bitter sweetness of joy and grief will make all the difference in your experience.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To ease your transition after a loved one has passed, we welcome you to take comfort in our many bereavement support services, such as workshops, support groups, memorial services, counseling, and even memorial gardens that can help you find those shimmers of happiness even while consumed with grief. Contact us to learn more at 888-755-7855.