05/17/2010 03:29 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

When You Can't Be Happy

As much as I write and talk about personal happiness I know all too well that there are crisis times in all our lives when we simply can't be happy. Loss of a job and the failure to find another, illness, divorce, financial devastation; any of the afflictions that affect us as human beings and bring turmoil to our lives push the idea of happiness into another realm. It seems almost impossible to sustain a feeling of anything but despair at such times.

There are so many stories of people going through crises.

David is taking care of his aging father while going through a divorce. He says that he can't see anything but frustration and sadness right now. There's no miraculous light at the end of the tunnel for him.

"Realistically, I know that I will be happy again at some point but not now. Now has no time for happy."

Barbara and Chris filed for bankruptcy and lost their family business. After months of trying to negotiate their financial obligations, they were unable to come up with a reasonable solution. Both feel defeated and constantly drained.

"Right now we can only feel miserable and sad emotionally. I would like for both of us to feel a sense of contentment in our lives again someday."

It doesn't have to be you personally who is directly affected by a negative event. The reality is that your own sense of happiness can be very much affected by outside sources. If someone you love is going through a time of pain, struggle, and uncertainty it can disrupt your life just as much. It is called 'second hand' turmoil and we all will experience it sometime in our lives.

Wanting the best for your children and seeing them struggle is one of these issues. Marie is going through a life crisis second-hand. Her married daughter, Jane, with a M.B.A. degree in hand, hasn't been able to find a steady job for almost two years since the company where she worked downsized. Jane has a mortgage, no health care, and is almost out of funds. Her parents help as much as they can but, financially, it is very hard all around. To make matters worse, Jane's husband is also unemployed. Happiness for all involved has been pushed to the back burner for now.

"As her parents we want nothing but happiness for her and to see her settled. It hurts so much to see her struggle like this. I am sick over it."

We all live through moments of happiness and unhappiness with hopefully more moments of joy and contentment than anything else. We want to feel good and be happy. But there are times when life can overwhelm even the most optimistic people. No matter how much you want to find a way out of your dilemma, you seem blocked-in. Trying to find a solution in itself becomes a draining issue.

With no psycho-babble or 'unrealistic cheery advice' offered, there are some ways you can make your situation bearable.

You need to step back. Try to take an objective look at what is happening and make a clear judgment. Is there anything at all that you can do differently to help yourself? Can you alleviate some of the stress you are feeling?

Don't try to solve it alone. Seek counseling if needed. Someone not directly involved can see the problem more clearly than you can. If finances are a problem and you cannot afford a professional counselor, talk to clergy or a close practical, sympathetic friend. Just knowing someone is listening can help a lot.

Write it down and join a self-help group online. Write about your frustration, your anger, your sadness. It's a healthy outlet for you. Joining a self-help forum online is another outlet. Knowing that others are in the same situation can make you feel less alone.

Understand that the situation won't last 'forever'. Ad infinitum is a long time. At some point, life will change and the situation will either be resolved or no longer exist. You will find your personal happiness again.

To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen and visit her Keys to Happiness blog. And Then I'll Be Happy! Look Inside the Book

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Copyright 2010 Kristen Houghton