Life is hard, yes, but also fleeting. To find happiness, live for today.

As my father used to say: “We’re not getting out of here alive.” So try to appreciate each day for the gift it truly is.

A friend of mine talked to me about her feelings of sadness and grief over her husband’s death four years earlier. She shared: “You’d think I’d be over my loss by now.” The reality is that there is no set timeline for grieving the loss of a loved one. Instead of getting over the death of someone we love, we learn to adjust to their absence over time.

Recently, I have heard many adults mention that they experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from common events in everyday life. They feel anxious and worried about the possibility of experiencing more negative events, such as the loss of loved ones, the end of future relationships, companies going out of business, getting laid off from another job or developing other health problems.

It’s true that we have strong emotional responses to life’s changes. The passing of loved ones hurts. Job loss is painful. Sudden illness is jarring and jagged. Beloved pets come to the end of their lives. The belief that we should somehow be immune to these natural changes results in worry that we’ll have other misfortune.

We will have other adversity. We will grow old (if we’re lucky) and experience everything from aches and pains to major illnesses. We will lose loved ones. As my father used to say: “We’re not getting out of here alive.” He’s right. None of us are immune to the inevitability of death.

Some people appear to have perfect lives where nothing goes wrong, while others face constant adversity and tragedy. It’s difficult to comprehend.

My friend, grieving the death of her husband, wonders when she will return to her normal self. What’s normal? The truth is that we’re always changing, and nothing stays the same. We can never go back to anything. The key to well-being is to accept this constant: change.

Of course, we all wish we had some kind of standard or steady state of welfare that we could return to. We want our company to be the way it “used to be.” We want to have the energy we had when we were young, the passion we felt when our relationship was new, and the ability to function the way we did in previous decades.

Are these inevitable changes traumatic? I hope not. They are the natural way of life.

The key to happiness is to live today, appreciate what you have and accept the changes that come with being alive.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at Optum Care Washington, formerly The Everett Clinic.

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