Can happiness AND grief co-exist?

In the car today, I heard on NPR an article on happiness, and if it was possible to create or increase happiness. NPR spoke of the national quota of happiness.  The Royal Government of Bhutan created this index to measure these key areas; psychological wellbeing, health, time use, education, culture, good governance, ecology, community vitality and living standards.  And once you met your basic needs, could material abundance enhance your happiness quota?

My mind wandered over to the topic of grief and loss + happiness.

Can both co-exist gracefully?  Or is it black/white, a flip flop, rollercoasting of emotions?

 I ask myself this as April historically represents both joy and sadness for me.

In less than 2 weeks, will be my birthday. However for the past 5 years,I have found the days around my birthday to be melancholy.


The week of my birthday, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter (happy day) but 3 days later, I received the call that my mother had committed suicide (a dark dark day).


And each subsequent year, either my sister or I have flown home to be with our 85 year old father to bring comfort during a dark time for him.


For the past 2 years, I decided to stay put, and direct some of this loving back to me, as my emotional piggy bank was running on empty.


Yet, to be really honest, I haven’t been open to really celebrating the day I came into this world as I would like to.  Last year, I had a heartfelt gathering at the home with a few friends. Kayman had a blast making “goody bags” filled with candy and party hats for our friends.


This year, Michael, (my husband) has been asking what I would like to do for my birthday,  would I like to go away for the weekend, what can he get me?


In my head swirls the words, birthday, suicide, pregnancy, and this year more than before, the “C” word as we add the 25th anniversary of being a cancer survivor to the mix. Yikes, just writing that feels heavy.


And at the same time, Palm Spring getaway, romantic dinner out, massage… bubbles up to the surface as well. What will win?


So when I heard the segment today, I asked myself how I felt about this year, and if it is possible to increase my “happiness” rating in the next week or two. If so, what could I do?


Here are some things that I came up with:

-Find a new way to honor the death of my mom in a more celebratory way

-Increase my exercise to 5x a week to literally feel better physically

-Read something for fun, and not for work. Currently am working through the trilogy 50 Shades of Grey.

-Do one little thing from my list of things that makes me smile


And so begins my own little survey of grief vs. happiness for the next 2 weeks…I will continue to blog every few days and share the results. What has been your experience?




6 thoughts on “Can happiness AND grief co-exist?”

  1. The guilt feeling of being happy when I’m grieving is always there, that’s what hunts me, but I really try to fight that, because I know in my mind that is ok to smile while grieving and just because I’m doing that it doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I love this topic and for sure I’ll be using your tips to make me feel better.
    Thanks for writing this article

  2. I think they must co-exist for without grief you can’t truly appreciate happiness. I love your ideas for working through your dual emotions. Another tip might be to try two minutes of meditation each day to let your mind free itself and present to you what is truly important. Wishing you a healthy and happy April birthday!

  3. Claire, so sorry to hear about your Mom! I encourage you to focus on the joy she brought into your life, try to move past the grief and celebrate as she would want you to do. I love all your ideas; especially the one of increasing your exercise to 5x/week. This will lift your spirits naturally by increasing your endorphins; making for a nice win-win! Wishing you a very happy birthday. Mine is coming up soon, too!

  4. Wow. Your story is the definition of happiness and grief mixed into one. Birthdays in themselves can be a challenging time. Throw in what you’ve had to deal with and whew mixed bag it is.

    I can’t say I’ve been through what you have, but I can tell you, that I’ve learned to be grateful for every birthday that I have because when I think of the opposite choice, I’m just thrilled;-).

    I also make sure to do something memorable on every birthday no matter what it is. It just has to be a good memory. When I was 19 years old I went out on a date with a 56 year old, chain smoking guy. What was I thinking – youth!. I hate that birthday memory. So now I make sure I’m doing something fun so that when that memory pops up, so will a good memory.

    Good Luck. thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi Claire – I love the idea of exercising more – this always helps lift my spirits whenever I am feeling under the weather. Especially running outside which lets your mind wander and helps me to gain clarity. Thank you for your post – what an amazing and honest story about the cycle of life.


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