Giving Yourself Permission to Have Fun

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lucky eagle car showIt’s summer.  It’s a time of celebration – backyard BBQs, community events, family reunions, vacations. And it’s a time for having fun with family and friends.  But what do you do when you are mourning the loss of someone you loved?  Do you participate in the events, but stay in the corner?  Do you decline invitations, thinking no one really wants to see you, fumbling for what to say to you, asking if you are ok?  Do you attend, yet question every moment of laughter or smile you have as a betrayal of the person who isn’t there?

Joan Hitchens of Navigating Grief understands the awkwardness of rejoining social events after a loss.  She has been there, having to re-engage in a life involving “fun” after the death of her husband.  “Most of us feel better when the sun starts coming out, days are longer, friends are doing things outdoors again.  But when you are grieving, you may not feel sunny on the inside,” describes Hitchens.

Hitchens continues to explain that people may still be feeling a deep sorrow from their loss and that they are not supposed to be having fun – that it’s a betrayal to the person who is gone.  “Living a good life is not a betrayal,” she says.  “One of the ways to give yourself permission to have fun is by honoring the person you lost by doing fun things they would have enjoyed – that you would have done together.”

She suggests reframing the activity by asking yourself, “Would my loved one want to deny me this?  What would they want for me?”  Chances are they would want you to smile, to laugh, to live life fully.

But what about gatherings with family and friends?  Inevitably there will be questions or awkward silences from those who don’t know what to say.  Hitchens suggests allowing storytelling to be part of your memories and part of the fun.  This assimilates the person you have lost into the gathering, instead of forgetting them.

Above all, identify for yourself what you are ready to do.  If you truly aren’t ready to be out with others, don’t go.  But don’t deny yourself some fun due to fear.  Live a life the person you lost would be proud of.

To learn more about Joan Hitchens, click here.


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