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Feldman, S.S. (1956). Crying at the Happy Ending. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 4:477-485.

(1956). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4:477-485

Crying at the Happy Ending

Sandor S. Feldman, M.D.


Analytic observation encouraged me to assume that crying at the happy ending is due to a "delay of affect" (5) ; to sad events the memories of which are stirred up by the happy ending; to guilt "how sad it is that we are bad, though life shows that one could be good"). The writer offers another possibility as an explanation for the crying at the happy ending. As children we are happy, we are loved and protected, and despite our pains and frustrations we believe that life is essentially joyful. As children we do not know that the time will come when death will put an end to our happy object relationships. As children we think that the world exists of children, young people and old people; we believe that we shall stay young forever. Gradually we realize the bitter truth, but we still cling through hopes, illusions and temporary happy events to the idea that life is a happy proposition and we shall always be together with our beloved ones. Even those who believe strongly in a life hereafter cry (with some exception) when they have to separate from the earthly forms of those whom they dearly loved. When something makes us happy, especially when a sad and painful situation turns out well making us joyous and happy, the fundamental knowledge and feeling that this is only temporary and not lasting breaks into our mind and makes us cry.

Small children do not cry at the happy ending: they smile because they do not yet accept the fact of death. Crying at the happy ending probably starts when death is accepted as an inevitable fact.

We do not cry only for the past unhappy events which are over anyhow, nor for happy events which we cherish, but we do cry that the happy childhood with its illusions is gone and we cry for

the sad end which is sure to come: the separation from the beloved ones.

There are no tears of joy, only tears of sorrow.

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