Self

The Secret Way I Found Happiness After Major Trauma (And You Can, Too)

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My father was 33 when he died. I remember him as a happy man. I was 8 and the oldest of six children. My mother became seriously ill, and we went to an orphanage for many years. The nuns were very strict and serious and did not allow space for happiness to occur. And so, the carefree and fun part of my childhood was over at eight.

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As adults (and more especially as children) we absorb the moods of those around us. As children, we learn by watching the people near us. I felt guilty if I had moments of happiness when my mother was grieving and ill. If people around us are unhappy, it is difficult to go against that negative tide.

It is difficult to feel happy when all you know in your life is sadness. How can I be happy when the people who gave me life can not be? How is that fair? How will I ever be able to find happiness when most of my life, it evaded me?

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Later, with the help of psychotherapy, I was able to resolve my grief, which was essential to learning how to be happy again. I've healed personally (and professionally I have witnessed others do the same). I know that freeing yourself from the weight of trauma and loss is possible. But it does take work. It takes time, and work and healing are not linear. I had my bad days.

Some people, who have experienced trauma or losses, often have an inner knowing that they can survive the hard stuff, and therefore never think to lean away from it. When all you know is the hard stuff, that's all you can think about. You don't know how to be happy, so you never expect it.

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When the slings and arrows of life come, some people come out of the rubble more resilient and accepting, while others of us need outside help, but either way, the first step toward returning to happiness again is the decision to change the situation. If you cannot do so on your own, seek professional help.

Psychotherapy does not have to take a long time. Grief, when unresolved and not accepted, interferes with potential happiness.

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When life sends us howling hurts, our ability to turn the struggle upside down is dependent on our willingness to be vulnerable, face losses, and resolve grief. As you become free of emotional pain, you can be happy again (or, in some cases, for the first time). It is possible and it will happen. I hope all of us are able to find the peace and happiness that we deserve.

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Laura B Young is a contributor to Yourtango. Read or hear more at her website. 

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