Picture this: You lost your partner suddenly 10 years ago and were constantly consumed by the "what ifs" and guilt that pervaded anytime you experience a glimpse of normalcy. Now, a decade later, you've gone to the support groups, worked through the trauma in therapy, found yourself again, and still experience guilt for dating or being able to feel happy on death anniversaries. Why is that?
It's because many believe that happiness and grief can't coincide, but they can. It just takes time and a lot of acceptance.
This graphic made by @glitterandgrief does a wonderful job of highlighting the process of working through these complex feelings and accepting that they can simply live together...and that's perfectly okay.
"I've learned it's possible to feel both grief and happiness at once. It's not the same as before. But I cope with my grief and allow myself to feel joy."
Now you might be thinking, "Okay I get the concept...but how do I learn to accept these feelings?" Here are some tangible ways to begin welcoming your joy and sadness to coexist in a guilt-free way:
When a million thoughts and memories are racing around in your head it's easy to get lost in the grief/guilt and feel completely overwhelmed. Writing those feelings down makes them less scary and easier to process.
Idea: You could write one column listing sad thoughts that infiltrated throughout the day and another listing when you laughed or felt truly grateful. This will help you see them tangibly together on a page and might help you give yourself the grace to understand that it's perfectly normal and perfectly human to feel both simultaneously.
Think about what that person would have wanted for you.
Losing someone can illicit a seemingly never-ending cycle of feeling completely numb to feeling every emotion all at once. When you're in this cycle, it's hard to imagine ever coming out of it. But, eventually, you'll see glimmers of light start to make their way through the darkness. These glimmers are where the guilt comes in.
Idea: Go for a walk in the neighborhood and practice looking for the beauty. Look for fluffy cats sunbathing on window sills, flowers in bloom, joyous family picnics at the local park, and the concurrent cool breeze and warm sun creating the perfect temperature. Now think about the loved one you lost- would they want to be experiencing this with you? Talk to them in your head or out loud as if you're sharing these little joys with them (because you are). It might help you in your journey of accepting the glimmers without the guilt.
Be kind to yourself.