The Guilt of Being Happy in Spite of Grief
All my life, I’ve been truthful and loyal to my beliefs. I pursued my dreams and did what I had to do to move forward, to grow: as a woman and a human being.
For me, life only makes sense if you’re happy or, at least, investing in being happy.
For a long time, I wasn’t a happy person. Still, I never gave up on trying to be, even growing up in a not-so-happy household, having suffered abuse, betrail, illness, and loss. My life has been hard, but I always kept my head up and my hopes high.
After losing the love of my life, five years ago, I lost our house; I was utterly broke and hopeless, I saw no way out for me. I was living again with my mother, that was, herself, grieving my father’s death. He had died four months earlier.
I was never so unhappy as I was five years ago. I knew I had to do something: it was time to take care of myself.
After the decision of leaving my country, the process was incredibly fast: less than two months later, I was landing on Luton airport, London. I had a job and a rented room waiting for me in a lovely city, away from the capital.
What pushed me to move to England wasn’t merely to build a new life, and a new me. No: I emigrated to start a new happy life. I went in pursuit of happiness. I wasn’t expecting to conquer it immediately or in a short period. First, I had to grieve. But, in time, my wish was to be happy again.
England and I was love at first sight. As much as I try to describe the feeling, I can’t. I love the country, the people, the culture; the vibes, the colours, the air. I feel myself here. I’m not the biggest fan of the weather nor the pale sky, but for all that I love so much, it compensates it.
I feel grounded in England as I never felt anywhere else.
The first months of living in my new country, I was always alone. Sometimes my colleagues would invite me to go for a coffee, but I usually refused. First, I had to glue my pieces back, I had to be able to feel comfortable with myself again. Only then I would be ready to start socializing.
One insomniac night, an urge to write came out of nothing. I hadn’t written in years! But that night, suddenly, writing was all I could think about. That night, a writer was born. And through writing, I started my healing process.
Months later, I had made friends, I was going out, leaving the cocoon I’d created. I was starting to feel good; I was smiling again.
Eight months into my new life, I made my first solo trip, to the Canary Islands, it was terrific. I had so much fun!
Time was passing by, and I was rebuilding my life. Myself.
I lived in a rented room for more than one year (living in shared houses is hard!), before I could afford to rent a flat and live on my own. When I did it, it was a relief and an immense sensation of freedom.
My life was moving forward.
Five years have passed since I lost the love of my life. Five years have passed since I lost a life I adored. I’ve built a new one, that I also adore. But it’s so different… everything is so different now.
I am happy. Yet, my happiness contains the bitter flavour of guilt.
The guilt hidden behind my happiness
If I hadn’t lost my love, I wouldn’t leave Portugal and met this marvellous country. I probably would never achieve the deep sense of belonging I have.
If my love hadn’t lost his battle in a bad surgery, I wouldn’t have travelled as I do, our life didn’t allow us. And travelling became one of my favourite things. I’m so happy when I put my backpack and go on an adventure!
If I hadn’t lost my life companion, would I be this empowered, independent, happy woman? I’m 46 years old, and I never felt so good in myself, so confident and fulfilled. I keep asking myself if I’d feel the same if my life hadn’t changed so radically.
I tried to love again, but it didn’t work out. Because you know: I tried. Love isn’t an attempt. You either love or you don’t.
I love my partner, and I always will. No one will take it away from me. I’m not a hostage of my love for him, and I don’t see my wish to love again as a betrayal. Humans are social creatures, we need people close to us; we need connection. And we need love.
The guilt I carry isn’t about specific things — it’s about being happy. Without him in my life.
We were happy, together, for thirteen years. I loved him immensely, and I was loved back, in a pure and truthful way.
But now, I am happy in consequence of his death.
Because the love of my life died, I found a Home (England). Then I became a traveller, I grew as a woman, I became more self-confident; I went on dates and I had lovers. I had incredibly fun and intense experiences. I became the woman I wished to be.
I am in a very good place in my life, yet, I can't seem to avoid an antagonistic feeling about my happiness.
Maybe time will allow me to purge guilt from my happiness. Until then, I’ll live with both.