Not ready to be happy

I believe there comes a period in mourning where we begin to realize we are returning. Life, light and a few smiles somehow make their way past our dark gates of grief. It’s surprising and perhaps even exciting – but almost immediately it also feels threatening and fearful.

Grievers often feel a loyalty to their pain. This pain of grief can become a stand-in companion for the loved one being mourned. There can be a sense that only when we are holding tightly to our grief are we being loyal to the memory of our loved one. But if we continued in this without wavering, we would, in a sense, die too.

Life is so peculiar the way it continues on after tragedy. If you’ve experienced a deep grief (and I assume you have because why else would you be here?), you know the utter shock of looking out your window and seeing the world moving about unaffected. When our interior world is destroyed it is natural for us to expect the exterior world to reflect that. I think it is a blessing that it doesn’t. While the world’s moving feels offensive at first, it is something we will come to need and benefit from.

So, back to that part I was talking about in the beginning – the part of bereavement where we feel a tug back to the light. I have no statistics, nothing on this whatsoever than a gut feeling. I think when we feel that warmth of the sun there is at first so much comfort and then, because grief is so complex, there can almost immediately be guilt, disgust and a hurried retreat into the safety of the cold.

Not ready to be happy …

A friend aptly described this as the time when we aren’t “ready to be happy yet”. It’s as if we know it’s just outside the front door, waiting for us, but we need a little more time to put things away inside, make sure the windows are shut, and curling iron off before we venture out. and It takes time, practice, and self-permission to re-enter into the sun.

Please do not mistake this metaphor for the idea that we leave the house of grief, neatly put away, locked up and never to return. It is the opposite. Our house is our life; a home to grief that we return to after every retreat into the sun. We occupy our grief always, but slowly, slowly we might occasionally pull the curtain and for a while see our dark rooms a little differently.

The time will come when the curtains are opened wider and longer. That time will come. Do not rush it. If you’re not yet “ready to be happy” then your grief is where you and your attention belong. There is no magical timing to this, only your interior sense. And after all, when you do find yourself able to feel some happiness, let yourself savor it. The sorrow will always be there; it’s gift is that it makes joy all the sweeter.

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Karen Turner says:

    This is so beautifully said and is so hopeful! Thank you for saying these thoughts out loud and giving permission to be right where you need to be in grief.

  2. Marsha Williams says:

    One of the things I appreciate about your writings Molly, is that you give me words to understand my grief? Thank you. When I first found myself laughing again, my laughter turned into sobs. The curtains are opening a little wider now. I can smile just thinking about the life I shared with Richard.

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