Does grief make you feel like you are coloring your world in shades of grey? When sorrow is with you every day, it’s hard to imagine how to find joy again.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It Possible to Feel Happiness or Joy While Grieving?
- Tips for Finding Joy While Grieving
- Tips for Helping a Loved One Find Joy While Grieving
Laughing or smiling may seem like a betrayal to the loved one you lost. It’s not, but it can be a common reaction. While it may be difficult to imagine feeling light and happy again, it is possible. In time, the emotional weight of your loss won’t overshadow everything else. You’ll see flickers of joy like a candle lighting the corner of a dark room.
Here we’ll explore how it’s possible to feel happiness while grieving, how you can open yourself to joy again, and how to support a loved one through this process. Your moments of joy may surprise you.
Is It Possible to Feel Happiness or Joy While Grieving?
If you’ve been through grief, you may understand how difficult it can be to imagine happiness. When your world is upside down, even things that usually bring you joy may seem trivial. What do any of those things matter when you’re trying to absorb terrible news you don’t want to believe?
Disorientation and disbelief are part of the grieving process. When your loss is still fresh, joy may seem out of reach. But your mind and body can gradually adjust to your new reality. As your perspective shifts, you may notice pockets of joy and light. Seeing distant relatives or reliving favorite memories can trigger unexpected positive memories.
Eventually, you may find it easier to stumble on bits of joy and simple pleasure. As you learn to live with your pain each day, your joy can find space in your mind and heart. It’s not disrespectful to the person you lost to enjoy yourself again. Happiness is part of the human experience, just as grief is. This rebalancing all takes time, but it is possible to find joy while you are grieving.
Tips for Finding Joy While Grieving
Your emotional pain may weigh on your heart so much you can’t even imagine happiness right now. You might be feeling uncertain, but it is possible to feel joy again. Consider these ideas for moving into the light again one step at a time.
1. Talk with someone about your experience and your emotions
Grief can be difficult to talk about. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and confused, especially when trying to make sense of loss. You may wonder how anything could make the pain better, and feeling happy may seem like a far-fetched idea.
Talking with a close friend or another loved one can ease the burden of emotional pain. No, it won’t make it disappear entirely. But you don’t have to carry it alone. When you feel comforted by someone else’s presence, talking can help that emotional weight seem more manageable. Instead of feeling isolated and trapped, your mind and emotions can move more freely inside you.
Your conversations may even wander into topics that make you smile, laugh, or inspire you in some way. These are the paths to joy and happiness. By sharing your emotional burden, you can move through your pain to see opportunities for pleasure again.
2. Try practicing gratitude
Gratitude may be the furthest thing from your mind when you feel like part of your heart has been ripped out. All you want is your loved one back, and that can't happen. It can seem like little else matters at your deepest moments of grief.
Gratitude is about taking perspective on your life in the present moment. That's a big part of coping with grief, too. You have to continually adjust to the big hole in your life stemming from your loss. Practicing daily gratitude is a way to flex that perspective muscle a little bit each day.
Keep it simple, like feeling grateful for your health, the dinner a friend brought over, or the pretty sunset. As you keep practicing, it will be easier for you to apply this perspective to your grief. You can more easily see the bright spots in your loved one's life instead of only feeling the pain of their loss.
As you train your mind to view things with gratitude, you may find unexpected pockets of joy and a new layer to your experience.
3. You can carry complex emotions at the same time
We live in a world where people turn complex issues in black-and-white viewpoints. Shades of gray are harder to explain and understand, but that's more accurate in real life. You can find some ease or comfort in engaging in grief and loss activities, which are more focused on helping you with your suffering.
You may feel deep pain as you grieve the loss of your parent. However, you can also find beauty in a lovely day or humor in a friend's joke. These things can exist at the same time.
You don't have to wait until you are "over" your grief to feel joy. That won't ever happen because getting through grief isn't about eliminating pain. It’s about learning to live with it. When you understand that you can have complex emotions at the same time, you may feel more open to happiness.
Tips for Helping a Loved One Find Joy While Grieving
Finding joy while grieving may sound like a mixed message. But weaving sparks of happiness together with sadness is how healing begins. Here are a few ideas for helping someone open up to happiness after a loss.
1. Encourage and invite them to socialize
Your loved one may not feel like going to a party or large social event right away. But you can encourage them to join you or a small group they know. Help them ease back into activities or social circles by extending an invitation.
You may feel like you're intruding or being pushy. But a person going through grief may feel like the world is foreign to them. They may need an encouraging nudge to step back into familiar parts of their life, especially social situations.
Your loved one may think they’ll be pressured to talk about their loss. Or they may worry about becoming emotional in front of everyone. Start small and keep the group limited to people they trust. In time, they may feel sparks of joy and happiness.
This experience may help them feel more comfortable seeking enjoyment on their own. So even if they don't accept your invitation right away, keep offering. Eventually, they'll be ready to take you up on it.
2. Just be there for them with patience
Moving through grief takes time, and your loved one may not know how to get through each day for a while. It's part of the grieving process, but watching them hurt can be tough. Even though you may wish you could take their pain away or cheer them up, that's not what they need.
It's OK for your loved one to sit with their pain, so offer to sit with them. Help them face their new reality by spending time with them. Be there, even when things are bad. It may seem counterintuitive, but facing pain honestly can help a person cope with it. This can be uncomfortable for a while. But allowing those feelings to move freely helps a person get used to them.
As a person understands how to cope with the rough moments, they can make their own path through their grief. It's learning to live with their pain that allows more room for joy and happiness again, not pushing it away.
Emotional pain will always catch up with a person. So instead of trying to avoid or push past it, have patience and keep offering your judgment-free support. As you accept what they are going through, they can begin to accept it as well.
3. Send supportive notes
Center each note around a kind and compassionate message. And set a schedule for sending out several cards over a few months. Sending one card or note is a meaningful gesture. But your loved one will appreciate hearing from you more frequently.
Mention that a person may have a wide range of feelings related to grief. The more people can acknowledge and accept their feelings, the more easily they learn how to live with the waves of emotion. Consider how your message may help them feel accepted no matter what their journey looks like.
Some notes could include favorite memories of their lost loved one. Others could be about taking things one day at a time or that you're there for them, rain or shine. If your loved one leans on their faith, include a message you believe they would genuinely find comforting.
Avoid phrases like, "It's God's will," or, "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle." These comments aren’t sensitive to a grieving person’s pain and suffering.
4. Suggest seeing a counselor or support group
Much of the grieving process feels negative and uncomfortable. People experience sadness, anger, confusion, and a range of other unpleasant emotions. But when you find peace and healing from a loss, you don't just flip a switch and turn off the sadness. The discomfort is woven together with moments of simple pleasures, happiness, and feeling more grounded again.
So if your loved one isn’t experiencing some positive moments very often after several weeks, they may be stuck in their grief process. Suggest they talk with a counselor to help them move forward again. They may have questions about grief and how to handle it.
A counselor can give them the answers and the guided support they need. Online grief support groups can also offer a way for you to connect with people who understand. Social support makes grief easier to understand and cope with.
Grief is not a mental disorder, and counseling won't make their pain go away. But with professional support, they can learn how to make room for joy and positive moods again.
Joy and grief together
Grief is a mixture of emotions, and it can be tough to understand until you’re in the middle of it. And through the cloud of sadness and loss, beams of sunlight can shine through. Joy can happen in the midst of grief. With support and patience, both can happen together.
- Savi Çakar, Firdevs. “The role of social support in the relationship between adolescents’ level of loss and grief and well-being.” International Education Studies, Vol. 13, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1276984.pdf.
- Settie, Jill. “How to find joy after adversity.” Greater Good Magazine, University of California, Berkeley, July 14, 2017, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_joy_after_adversity.
- UNCW.edu. “Grief and loss.” University of North Carolina Wilmington, Counseling Center, uncw.edu/counseling/grief-and-loss.html.
- Extension.Illinois.edu. “Holding joy and grief.” Illini Extension, College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences, extension.illinois.edu/blogs/refill-your-cup-self-care/2020-12-09-holding-joy-and-grief.