What if the unthinkable happens?  Could you ever feel joy again?  I would never want that to happen to you or to me or to anyone I know and love. Yet I know that those things happen. In 2015 Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, lost her husband Dave when he died suddenly and unexpectedly on vacation.   Both she and their two children were devastated.  She did not feel that she would ever feel joy again. How could she find joy in the midst of such deep sadness?

Sheryl Sandberg told a friend: ‘But I want Dave.’ He put his arm around her and said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the s*** out of Option B.’ according to The Daily Mail.

She believes in post-traumatic growth, the ability to find glimpses of joy even though the sadness is ever present.  She also believes in pre-traumatic growth.  In building up our resilience before something bad happens so that we will be able to deal with something bad when it happens.  Sandberg’s latest book written with Adam Grant, Wharton Professor is Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

Living In Joy Does Not Mean Happy No Matter What.

Living a life of joy isn’t about always being happy no matter what.  You may feel as some of my clients do, that society expects you to arrive at a place in life where you feel joy no matter what. And they felt guilty.  We’re human. We have good days and bad days. We have bad things happen: divorce, cancer, death, loss of a job and we realize the life we are living is not the life we want.

None of us are immune from bad things happening.  We can’t prevent the bad things from happening to ourselves or to those we love.  Years ago I made peace with the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people and this is something I will most likely not understand while living on this earth.  Sometimes prayers seem to result in miraculous healing and other times they don’t. Not that I like it, but there is nothing I can do about it.

Gratitude as a Path to Joy.

Sheryl Sandberg was asked to imagine what could have been worse.  She could have lost her children too.  Could she be grateful for her children?  Of course she could.  When we think about the worst, it helps us to turn that around and to be grateful for what we do have.  Shifting to a place of appreciation and gratitude helps build that post-traumatic growth muscle, our ability to be resilient but you don’t have to wait for a traumatic event to start building your resilience.  Yes, you can feel a deep sadness and also feel deep joy.  We are amazing creatures that we can hold two very different feelings at the same time.

Honoring your feelings no matter what brings you to that place of joy.  When you stuff down those negative feelings, you become filled with negativity and leave no room for joy.  Feel your feelings.  Don’t act out on them.  Don’t take your feelings out on others.

The ability to come out of the other side of a traumatic event is your responsibility as Sheryl Sandberg so courageously points out.  It’s not easy.  The guilt for even daring to feel joy again after a significant tragedy is immense.  Those who love you want you to go on with your life, to feel joy again. You can feel joy in the midst of sadness.

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