Would you like a Happy Ending?

I am conflicted.

Life is not overflowing with happy endings.
So when I'm reading a work of fiction, I like having one.  I hate when a story I've become deeply involved in ends on a sad note.  I feel cheated...heartbroken...the story doesn't feel complete to me.
I realize not everyone feels this way...and an unhappy ending doesn't mean an automatic dislike from me...but I do prefer them.
All my favorite books have happy endings...or at least not unhappy ones.

When I became a writer, I had an unspoken understanding with myself that all of my stories would have happy, or "complete" endings.  I don't want readers' hearts to break at the end of my stories...I want them to be uplifted...and/or affected...tearing up in a good way, not a bad one.

Therein lies my problem.  I'm currently writing a short story that has  [gasp]  a sad ending. =(
And it's not just a sad ending.
It's a gut-wrenchingly sad ending.
And it's making me crazy.

You would think that, as the writer, I could just make some adjustments to the plot and have the story turn out less tragic...but it's not that easy.  I have tried to come up with ways around it...but the story is it's own entity now...and it's not budging.  The problem is that it's not just some random short story I thought up one day.  It's a prequel to the next series of books I'm writing after Solitary Sky.
The tragic ending has already happened inside my head...it's unavoidable.

I'd like to know what everyone else thinks.  Is a happy ending necessary?  Is a tragic end a deal-breaker?  I keep telling myself that readers will forgive me, but can I forgive myself???

I read somewhere recently that as a writer, you have to be a little sadistic in order to do all the horrible things you must do to your characters.  I don't think there's a sadistic bone in my body...maybe I'll just have to grow one.  ;o)


 photo courtesy of Scott Freiheit ~ http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Comedy_and_tragedy_masks.svg