Anyone who has gone through grief or trauma, whether it be the death of a loved one, hearing a devastating diagnosis, or experiencing an unexpected loss of house or job, will feel sad. Horrendously sad. Probably anxious, desperate, and angry as well. It is normal. That’s right. It is okay to feel sad when we experience these things. Our bodies are biologically set up to feel those emotions when we experience loss.

Not only are those feelings of overwhelming sadness normal, but they will also most likely come and go throughout time. There is no endpoint. You may experience a day where you feel good. That doesn’t mean those low feelings are gone. They may come back another day or at another moment. And that’s normal, too.

I’ve experienced this sort of grief many times over the last few decades. When my daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a baby, the many times hearing the tumor didn’t respond to treatment, experiencing the trauma that comes with brain tumor treatments, and, of course, her death.

A friend who had gone through similar grief advised me to feel my feelings. Feel every single one of them – the tears that come from missing someone, the shouts that come from the anger of being in this situation, and especially the laughter that comes from remembering a happy occasion. She said it helped her cope with her grief, this acknowledgement of feelings.

I tried this approach. I loved this approach. I felt it not only acknowledged my feelings of grief after losing my daughter, but that my grief was also honoring my daughter. And this approach was perfectly acceptable to me and everyone around me for the first several weeks surrounding her death.

But then it got awkward.

My friends, neighbors, and even family members would start a seemingly benign, everyday-type conversation that would provoke an unexplained feeling of sadness in me – or start a conversation during a time that I was feeling low, deep in the depths of my grief – and I needed to respond. Like a normal person.

Apparently the world had kept spinning.

And that’s when I decided to start scheduling my breakdowns.

My son came home one day, months after the loss of my daughter, excitedly telling me about the great catch he made during a football scrimmage. It happened to be during a moment when all I wanted to do was scream at the world for the unfairness my daughter had to put up with, having a brain tumor to contend with her entire life and dying at the young age of 21 years. But there was my son standing in front of me. Who had also been through so much, especially the last few months, finally getting to enjoy a high in his life. I needed to enjoy this moment with him.

I stopped the tears forming in my eyes. I looked at the clock on the microwave oven, lighting up 6:16 PM. We were going to eat dinner soon. And we had no plans after that. I decided then that I will take some time after dinner to sit with my thoughts. I will sit in a quiet room and cry. Maybe I’ll sit in her room and look through photo albums. But at this moment, I will smile and ask my son to rehash the entire play. We’ll then sit and eat dinner together, still feeling his excitement.

I realized at that point we also need to be a part of this world, smiling at the good when it happens, to also honor my daughter. She loved life and was unafraid to let everyone know she was loving life. We needed to appreciate what we had been given.

But that didn’t mean we had to stifle away our feelings of grief. We just had to acknowledge them at an appropriate time. I learned to schedule my breakdowns. Bursting into tears during a meeting at work just didn’t work. However, if I had a lunch hour to myself that day. I’d grab some tissues and hide away for a bit to cry and acknowledge my grief. Afterward, I’ll clean up my face and enjoy that afternoon coffee scheduled with my colleague. And I mean, actually enjoy. It’s not pretending – feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s okay to have just had a meltdown and go on to have a fun time.

I will forever feel grief over the loss of my daughter. That’s not going away nor should it. But I will also, in between my moments of breakdowns, shouting matches, and meltdowns, live and enjoy this life.