Being positive 24/7 is unrealistic - especially when you're grieving.
Last night, I was scrolling through Pinterest, trying to avoid going to bed. I hadn’t updated some boards on the Teenage Grief Sucks Pinterest recently, so I decided to add more pins to them.
I got on the “Mental Health” board (which you can view here) and clicked “more ideas.” I started scrolling, stopping occasionally to save a pin, and sort of zoned out.
After a few minutes, the variety of my pins started decreasing, and I noticed that a lot of the ones I saw were saying similar things:
“Good vibes only.”
While I used to think pins like that were inspiring and uplifting, they now remind me of something I had to learn the hard way: positivity isn’t always the answer.
If you looked at my Pinterest boards right after my dad’s death, you’d see hundreds of positive quotes. Words like “choose happiness” and “see the good” filled my feed, leaving little room for anything else.
I absolutely loved those pins. Especially at the beginning of my grief. I was determined that, instead of crying in my room after school every day, I was going to smile through the pain until it went away.
For the first few months, smiling through the pain actually did work. Instead of acknowledging my feelings, I buried them underneath positivity: I told lots of jokes, smiled as much as I could, and tried to hide how I was actually feeling. According to my Pinterest pins, the best way to be happy was to pretend until I actually was, and I was so excited for the day when I would be genuinely happy.
Instead of having my life improve, though, some weird things started happening about half a year after my dad’s death. I would start crying in public randomly over the smallest things, I began having more nightmares about my dad, and I felt terrible in general. My suppressed emotions were coming out, and I could no longer keep them in.
Whenever I got on Pinterest and saw positive quote then, I felt like something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I only focus on the good like everyone else was?
What I learned over the next few months, and am still learning now, is that, no matter how positive a person may seem, they also have bad days. Even after I started finding happiness again after my dad’s passing, I still had days where I struggled to get out of bed in the morning.
Positivity isn’t a bad thing. It’s really good, but only if you still let yourself be sad sometimes. Being a positive person doesn’t mean that someone never has bad days - everyone does. Instead of trying to ignore your feelings and be happy like I did, though, let yourself feel your emotions and be negative for a little while.
I’m still working on not being positive about everything, especially when it comes to my grief and being there for my friends. Whenever I miss my dad, I let myself feel upset and like everything is terrible for a while before I try to comfort myself, and I do the same thing when trying to be there for friends.
When I get on Pinterest now, I don’t save the completely positive pins. Yes, positivity is good, but you don’t always have to be positive. Instead, I save things like:
“It’s okay to not be okay.”
“Choose yourself today.”
“Don’t give up.”
“Love yourself first”
“You are not alone.”
And honestly, those make me feel much better than “be happy” ever did.
BTW - I got inspired to write this article by Nadia Addesi (@evolveandbloom) on TikTok. She’s a therapist who makes videos about mental health and self love, which I enjoy watching.
Read Next: "You Don't Need to be Okay"
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Timo Wielink.