Whenever we face a difficult life situation — separation, divorce, death of a loved one, a friend or family member in crisis — the first casualty is happiness. Consumed by the enormity of the situation we buy into this idea that we will never be happy again. Or that happiness is for other people.

Worst-case scenario: we feel guilty when we enjoy a few moments of happiness. We tell ourselves that we have no right to be happy any more.

If this is you, take heart. You can be happy again. You can laugh again. You can feel joy again.

Here are 6 truths about finding your happy after loss.

  1. You have to choose happiness again. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t happen like this: months and years don’t just roll by and one fine morning you wake up and feel that sparkle of happiness in the middle of your chest. You have to want happiness again. You have to choose happiness again. This means healing the beliefs you’ve made your own. I don’t deserve to be happy anymore. How can I be happy when my son/daughter/husband/wife/sister/brother/BFF/mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/uncle/aunt is dead? Your being unhappy isn’t serving anyone. Your loved ones in spirit want you to be happy.
  2. Your flavor of happiness is different. It’s very possible that happiness after loss has a different taste to it. Maybe it’s a deep sense of contentment. Maybe it’s more muted and less bubbly. Maybe it feels more like appreciation and gratitude for all the blessings in your life, and all that you know now.
  3. What makes you happy is different. Most people that I work with admit that their values have changed after the storm they went through. What used to be important no longer is. What once did not get their time, energy, and focus now does. Things that don’t matter fall away. Priorities shift. What it means to have a happy and fulfilled life without your loved one is a new phase you learn to navigate.
  4. Learning to be happy because of the loss. Your loss has taught you how fragile life is and now you’re even more conscious of every passing moment and devoted to making it count. Your loved one isn’t here, but you are. You breathe with a whole new level of appreciation for the gift of breath. You resolve to live a life and create a legacy that will leave your heart imprint on the world.
  5. Living life on your terms. A new awareness that you have so much love to give and receive takes root. Life didn’t pan out the way you imagined but you’re determined to live life on your terms. Pleasing other people, doing what others think you should, and giving until it hurts to give — these lifelong habits of fulfilling others’ expectations and living by popular social norms fall away. You begin to ask yourself what matters to you and how you want to spend the rest of your life. Whether it’s eating cake for dinner, painting in the park, or moving to live closer to the beach. This becomes the new compass that guides your life.
  6. Happiness is a changing target.  Instead of spurts of joy and big highs, happiness is more about a deep contentment and a settled feeling that all is well. Because of the massive grief you’ve experienced, you know that we’re all impermanent and all that we feel is impermanent too. So you’re better able to accept that a day of feeling tearful and hopeless is just a passing wave. You receive it and be with it, knowing that happiness will find you again.

What are some things that make you happy these days? Share in the comments.

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