After a loss, whether unexpected or expected, thinking about living happily again can feel utterly impossible and hopeless. Losing something like a career, a loved one or a relationship can leave us feeling numb. We often hear about the stages of grief people can expect to experience, though it can feel like forever. This can leave us with questions like what can things look like for me afterward? Or how can I ever feel happy again?
The 5 Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While these stages are more commonly associated with death or dying, grieving can also be just as hard when losing a job or a relationship occurs. People experience these stages differently, between person to person and they are not experienced in a linear manner. Sometimes people can feel like they are moving “backwards” through the stages and at times it can feel like the process lasts forever. Though, allowing the grieving process to run its natural course is valuable in realizing that one can feel happy again. These feelings and stages can feel uncomfortable and sometimes we try to rush through them. Emotions like guilt, anger, and intense sadness are all normal and taking small steps to work through these are an important part of the process. Journaling, writing a letter to the one we lost, painting, or engaging in some form of creative expression can be ways to allow ourselves to feel the experience of our emotions.
Focus on Your Values
Some people start to turn inward and begin to refocus on what brought them value into their life. For instance, focusing on their present support system and relationships or spending time and energy doing activities and hobbies that they enjoyed.
Life may not feel the same after going through a loss. We often find ourselves having a difficult time “filling the void”. Deriving happiness through new hobbies, goals, traditions, or relationships can be helpful in redefining what happiness can look like for us. While things may not feel the same after a loss, “different” can feel happy as well. Additionally, practice opening up to happiness through giving yourself permission to feel happy again.
There is no time limit for grief and triggers may arise unexpectedly or unexpectedly such as on anniversaries. Unresolved or complicated grief can lead to depression or other mental health concerns. If grief impacts your overall ability to function day to day, reaching out to a mental health professional can allow you to return to the path toward healing.