Put On A Happy Face!

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The 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie features several good songs. My favorite is “Put On A Happy Face.” 

Gray skies are gonna clear up, Put on a happy face;

Brush off the clouds and cheer up, Put on a happy face.

Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy, It’s not your style;

You’ll look so good that you’ll be glad Ya’ decide to smile!

Pick out a pleasant outlook, Stick out that noble chin;

Wipe off that “full of doubt” look, Slap on a happy grin!

And spread sunshine all over the place, 

Just put on a happy face!

“Just Put On A Happy Face” is not always good advice! When we’ve had a loss of any kind, society often judges us by how fast we appear to get over it! I like the above-named song, but it spreads a misconcept.  We treat our emotions in grief recovery more importantly than the way we treat our intellect in grief recovery. What I mean is,  when people ask, “How are you doing?” you don’t have to automatically respond, “I’m fine!” 

When my kids were little and skinned their knees on the playground, I checked for dangling limbs and gushes of blood. Finding neither, I would tell them, “Ouch! I am so sorry you fell down!” I would then love on them and send them away to play some more with the parting admonition, “But, be sure to come back and tell me when it quits hurting.” I was planting validation of their current feelings and hope for when it quits hurting so they would truly feel better!

How many of us feel an obligation to look better than we feel? Probably most of us do. 

James and Friedman in their Grief Recovery Handbook, chapter five say, “The vast majority of comments a griever hears appeal to the intellect and do not encourage the expression of feelings. In a relatively short time, the griever discovers that he or she must ‘act recovered’ in order to be treated in an acceptable manner.”

1. Many grievers try to focus only on fond memories. We call this enshrinement, and it may involve failing to clean out closets, a desk, etc. that contain a collection of items of the deceased.

2. Many grievers see perfection in remembering the focus of their loss. All you have to do to become perfect (in the eyes of some) is DIE! We talk about “not speaking ill of the dead” and fail to look back on how we struggled in a past job or marriage — because of today’s rose-colored glasses.

3. It is almost impossible to complete the recovery from a death, divorce, or any major loss unless we remember everything about the relationship — and NOT just the positives! Some people don’t practice enshrinement — they practice bedevilment. All they seem to remember about a church, job, or person are the negatives — not the big picture of what was. 

So, “Put On A Happy Face”??? I’m working on it.

Picture of Doug Greenway

Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at doug_greenway@yahoo.com.

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