A Short Course In Happiness After Loss

(and Other Dark, Difficult Times)

by Maria Sirois

Publication Year: 2016

A Short Course in Happiness After Loss brings to us a powerful intersection of the science of positive psychology and the wisdom necessary to thrive when facing life’s harshest moments. In poetic, compassionate and yet fearless language, Sirois traverses the territories we most fear—death, exile, disease—and carefully lights pathways toward a happiness that includes the scars of our suffering and the bounty and goodness present within our world. Her work offers each of us, no matter the trials of our lives, a template for rising through pain into a steady, resilient and open heart, one capable of facing sorrow and loving fully and laughing richly anyway.

Table of Contents

Part One: Loss
True Hope
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
What We Feel
The Gift of Sight
Facing Fear
Why me?
Where the Hell is that White Horse?
The Art of Losing
Part Two: Happiness
Heaven Within Hell
Heaven Within Hell Part 2
What Happiness Looks Like
The Surround of Love: Loving Ourselves First
Grounded Optimism
The Choir
Holding on and Letting Go
Becoming True
Undefended Hearts
This Meeting, One Chance
The World Will Rise to Meet You
A New Story…
A Final Note    
Notes to Self   
Suggested Resources    

Praise for Jennifer’s memoir:

Few could guide us as well through dark moments toward wholeness. It takes a master storyteller and an extraordinarily sensitive soul to speak about loss and happiness in proximity to one another. Maria Sirois, by drawing on personal experience, research, and a lot of heart, can help us all navigate through life’s most difficult experiences, so that we can find our way to safety, and even to happiness.  —Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier

Maria Sirois is born storyteller and “A Short Course in Happiness After Loss” is full of them, many from unlikely places, like the ground beneath her feet. Maria can extract a story from a rock in the road and such is her talent that we will happily bend down with her when she picks it up turns it over, and tells us why this particular rock is so important. In the process, she tells us why we’re important, too. This is a delicious book, full of truth and generosity and the kind of no-holds-barred honesty that characterizes Maria in person and on the page.  —Phyllis Theroux, author of The Journal Keeper

What a wonderful book this is!  Full of insight drawn from the author’s clinical practice, A Short Course in Happiness After Loss deserves a place on your shelf next to When Things Fall Apart, Broken Open, and The Year of Magical Thinking. Beautifully written and tenderly observed, Maria Sirois’ meditation on loss and resilience will help you through your darkest hours and fill your heart again with joy.  —Mark Matousek, author of When You’re Falling, Dive 

This book tells us how to love truly, fully, and completely in the face of suffering and loss. Maria Sirois writes of her own losses and the losses of others she accompanies in her work as a therapist and teacher. This is a book of beauty and grace, a book that teaches us that happiness waits patiently for those who seek it.  —Sherri Mandell, author of The Blessing of a Broken Heart


Stunned by the death of her 48-year-old brother, Maria Sirois asks how we summon our strengths to survive the agonies of this world. And she answers her question with stories of resilience from her own deeply felt experiences, amplified by poetry and the spiritual wisdom of the great sages. A trustworthy guide, she earns our confidence through courageous self-revelation. Rather than tuning out encounters with loss and suffering in her life and the lives of others, Maria has gathered them close, allowed them to transform her, and she has developed a set of profound lessons to teach what she has learned along the way. She reminds us, “We suffer.  None of us is spared.” In her short course, Maria gives us permission to confront suffering directly, while reminding us of our resilience, capacity to love, and our ability to endure.  —Richard M. Berlin, author of Practice and Secret Wounds

How can we live with deep grief and still find meaning and happiness? It may seem impossible, but — drawing from her experiences and those of many people she has worked with — Maria shows us that this can happen. In her unique voice, poetic and heartfelt, she teaches us that there are no recipes for recovering from tragedy, but that we can choose how we want to be in the face of loss and learn to accept the puzzling but real coexistence of great pain and great joy in our life.  —Margarita Tarragona, author of Positive Identities: Narrative Practices and Positive Psychology

Wise, real, and clear, this book offers a way into what we all have to do sooner or later—live alongside death. The words are not prescriptive, giving a pat recipe for managing loss and pain. Instead, with compassion rooted in experience, Maria unwraps little bubbles of hope with each story, honoring the raw truth of grief and the possibility of life waiting in the wings to resurface. If you’re trying to figure out how to live in the face of death, and need a rudder to hold onto, grab this book.  —Megan McDonough, author of Radically Receptive Meditation


Every grief is piercingly unique, and every one of us picks our own path through. What a lifeline to have Maria by our sides, presenting some universal human truths as signposts to guide us, tossing us the lifelines of wisdom and humor as we navigate to a new normal and rediscover light and grace.  —Janet Reich Elsbach, blogger: A Raisin and A Porpoise

Maria SiroisAbout the Author


Dr. Maria Sirois is a clinical psychologist, international consultant and inspirational speaker who works in the intersections of psychology and wellbeing. She is a master teacher and facilitator, devoted to the science of wellbeing and the art of crafting a life and a work that embodies health, passion and success. As a positive psychologist and consultant she focuses on the resilience of the human spirit, particularly when under chronic stress and/or the shock of things falling apart. Her first book, Every Day Counts: Lessons in Love, Faith and Resilience From Children Facing Illness is used as a teaching tool at wellness centers, hospitals and hospices and offers wisdom from those who are dying. Her home is in the Berkshire Mountains.

For more information about Maria’s work,
visit MariaSirois.com

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