"You Look Happy." But I Feel Guilty.

For the first time in awhile, I was really happy. So why did I feel guilty?

Grieving teen blows dandelion, making it fall apart in the breeze in front of a sunset.
Dandelion falling apart in the breeze.

For months after my dad's death, seeing family was rough. Whispers and discreet glances, sympathetic smiles, and random hugs have never really been my cup of tea, so being around the people who did exactly that was miserable. But, approximately 11 months after my dad's passing, a visit with my family led to a non-typical greeting from a relative:


"You look happy."


She said it with a smile, offering a hug, and then walked away to say hello to others. As everyone else continued to chat, my mind was racing. It hadn't really hit me yet, but I was happy, she had gotten that right. For the first time in awhile, I was really in a good place. I was writing almost every night with a goal in mind, doing well in school, and I was surrounded by the people I loved. So, why did her words make me so sad?


In one month, it would be a year since my dad's untimely death. Since he left. Whether I wanted it to or not, life was moving on. It felt like my world had just stopped when he died, but it had slowly begun to move again. I was living, happy, and... guilty. Happiness was an end goal of mine. I mean, who doesn't want to be happy? But, being happy without my dad felt like a betrayal to him. Because I'm happy, do I not love him enough? Shouldn't I still be miserable 24/7? As I began to spiral, the rational side of me came jumping in. And, it screamed quite loudly, "YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY!" again and again and again until I really heard it.


My dad wouldn't want his death to ruin my life. And, neither would your loved one. You deserve to be happy. And yes, I am. I still miss my dad and I always will, but outside of that, I have begun to pursue things that will improve my life and bring me more joy.


Don't feel guilty about finding happiness during grief. Everyone deserves an urge to smile more than once in a while, including you.


Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Dawid Zawila.