Feeling Bittersweet

When feeling bittersweet during a celebration, how do I work with that?

This month’s Ask a DEI Professional question is about mixed emotions. Our questioner writes:

When a celebration time in life is bittersweet (i.e. someone you love isn’t there for whatever reason etc.), is the emotional goal to be present with joy and present with sadness?

How can you lean into the joy of celebration vs letting sadness take over? Or, is that the wrong question?

Thanks for your question! We have reply from one of our Dynamic Emotional Integration® professionals.

Camilla Jørgensen answers:

Camilla Jørgensen


Thank you for your questions and for wanting to learn more about your emotions.

Feeling bittersweet is a mixed emotion state that is often a combination of two emotions at the same time: joy (or happiness) and sadness, or joy and grief. We often feel more than one emotion at a time and we don’t have to choose between them.

Some situations in our life bring forward one main emotion. However, other situations in life are more complex. When there is more than one element in a situation for us, multiple emotions come forward and often at different levels of intensity from soft to medium to intense.

Each of the different emotions help us deal with the situation by addressing the different elements in the situation. When there is both an element of celebration and an element of sadness – because someone you love is not present at the celebratory event – both emotions may occur at the same time. This is completely normal. In fact, it is normal to experience more than one emotion at a time daily.

Working with Mixed Emotions

You ask if the emotional goal in a situation like yours is to be present with both emotions. Yes, you don’t have to choose between them or lean into one emotion while suppressing another.

We can laugh and cry at the same time when we need to. However, in DEI the emotional goal is more than being present with your emotions. It’s to work with the emotions and engage directly with the intelligence in them by asking the inner questions for each emotion and having a practice for each emotion.

Emotions come forward to help you with a situation. So, joy and sadness are both needed in the situation you describe. Sense into: What does your emotion want to help you with? Joy comes forward to help you feel expansiveness, communion, and deep connection. Sadness comes forward when it is time to let go of something that doesn’t work anyway or doesn’t serve you anymore.

If you didn’t have a choice in whether the loved person was present or not at the event, it might be helpful to sense into whether grief is present for you. Grief comes forward to help you mourn and honor your losses. Grief – like any emotion – can come forward at different levels of intensity.

And joy and grief often work together because there is also an element of communion in grief.

Many of us don’t feel comfortable crying in front of other people because it is not socially acceptable in many western cultures to cry in public. If the celebratory event is in public, it could be a choice to lean into joy and not express sadness (or grief) outwardly through tears. We can choose to cry later in a private environment where we feel safe, like at home or maybe somewhere private with close relatives or friends.

Whatever the situation is for you, I hope you find a way to explore your emotions in a way that is supportive to you and to them – both in celebratory times and otherwise.


~Camilla Westy Jørgensen

Here are the internal questions for Happiness, Joy, Sadness, and Grief:

Table with the questions for happiness, joy, sadness, and grief.

We hope this is helpful. Let us know!

Thanks so much for your question and for working to welcome and understand your emotions.

Have you ever felt bittersweet? What about other mixed emotions?

Share your thoughts and comments with us below!

Each month, we’ll choose a question or two for our licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® professionals to answer right here on our Empathy Academy blog.

Do you have a question about empathy or emotions? If so, click the button below to send us your question.

So, what’s your question?

Ask a DEI Professional

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts