We live in an imperfect, fallen, sometimes ridiculously unfair world. We would love to live in our little happy bubble and have none of the experiences of this world would ever cause us grief. However, here in reality, things make us sad. Sometimes someone we love leaves us. Sometimes a friend or family member hurts our feelings. Sometimes our children break our hearts with their choices. Sometimes we’re just plain sad.
The ability to move through sadness effectively is one of the greatest tools to learn true and lasting happiness. It sounds weird doesn’t it? You can’t be truly happy until you know how to be sad. Too often, instead of just being sad when sad things happen, we put on a happy face. We think if we’re sad then that must mean life is bad, or we’re ungrateful for our blessings or we’ve somehow failed. Maybe we think we can’t handle the sadness so we shove it in a corner and pretend like it’s not there.
How to be sad well? For each of us it’s different, but the ability to be sad well is founded in self-care. We have to get to know ourselves and what soothes our soul. It can be a cumbersome process and, in the beginning it’s not so fun. We may try a bunch of different things that ultimately don’t help us move through the sadness and we’re left wallowing in sadness. If we keep at it, we eventually figure it out.
I have to start with just giving myself permission to be sad. If something has happened that has hurt my heart, I acknowledge it. This may mean that I don’t feel like going out and talking to people. It may mean that I don’t feel like doing my life in the way that I normally do it. Maybe, instead of networking and doing “people oriented” things, I just do paperwork and write. I start by giving myself permission to feel however I feel.
Then, I think about what might make me feel better. Now, I don’t mean being indulgently destructive. For example, you may think “If I went and punched him in the face, I’d feel better.” or “If I went out partying, I’d be in a better mood.” This is not what I mean. These things are unhealthy and unhealthy things do not help you move through emotions. They are escapism. After much trial and error, I learned that stillness makes me feel better.
When I am sad, I take time away to focus on me. The most effective way for me to move through sadness is to practice yoga and sit on the beach. Usually, I try to do this alone. We have to be careful not to depend on someone else to cheer us up. It shouldn’t even be our kids. This is too much pressure on them and it is unhealthy. They are not the keepers of our happiness (or sadness). We are.
The gift is this: you’re free to feel what you feel. When you’re sad, be good and sad. When you’re mad, be good and mad. Move through emotions with grace and love and you’ll always find happy on the other side.