At some point in life all of us will feel sad. Sometimes it can develop into an all-consuming agony that just will not go away. Sadness is usually related to some kind of loss. It could be caused by a loved one who has passed away or the ending of a romantic relationship or even related to leaving a job or organisation. Sadness is a normal human emotion and it would be wrong to try and suppress it but there can be times when it takes over our lives. This is the sort of sadness I would like to look at in this article.
When we become very sad and just can’t throw it off, it means we are a holding on to a person or situation. Whatever has happened does not fit our script for happiness and we refuse to let go. In the case of a failed relationship the sadness allows us to dwell on the other person and generally feel sorry for ourselves. Subconsciously we also send out a message to our ex partner that we are not happy and that they made a mistake. We might try to bring them back with our sadness – in other words make them guilty. The sadness has become a sophisticated form of communication. I remember after my wife left me and my marriage ended that I was deeply sad for many months. I also remember wishing I could become ill and get hospitalised so that she would feel sorry for me and come and visit me. What I was really looking for was for her to love me because I was struggling to love myself – it was showing my dependence on her for my happiness.
In the case of bereavement, especially of a parent, child or partner, we may also be thrust into irreconcilable sadness. This is sometimes called an ocean of sadness and we might find ourselves crying, often alone, for hours on end. This can be healthy in that it is part of the grieving process but if it goes on without relief for days or months, it can become very destructive. If this is happening it means that we are not allowing ourselves to move on after the loss – we have not let go of the loved one. Often, such a deep and long-lasting sadness hides a more fundamental emotional pain such as guilt. This is guilt for all the unfinished emotional business from the relationship before they died. We may have regrets and feelings of guilt for the way we behaved or for the things that we failed to do when they were still with us. I have often heard people who have lost their parents say how they wished they could turn back time and show the love and appreciation that they failed to do when they were alive.
The way through all forms of destructive sadness is to let go of the person or situation that we are holding on to. In the case of a person it is worth thinking whether they would be happy now if they could see our sadness and self-pity? We can ask ourselves what they would want for us following their death or exit for a relationship? Most people would want us to be happy and for us to move on in our lives. You can also think of all the things you loved about the person and pour those feelings towards them – really appreciate them and see them smiling back in your mind’s eye. Remember that you can still love a person and feel their love even if they are no longer physically present in your life.
Sometimes we use the loss of a person or relationship to avoid taking the next step in our lives. We make an altar to the person and then bleed all over it (making sure that they are watching)! If you are facing unrelenting sadness, ask yourself what is it that these negative feelings stop you from doing? Whatever answer comes to you start making plans to do just that – it might be a new relationship or perhaps a new job or interest. Use sadness and loss as learning opportunities from which you can develop and grow as person. If you have a spiritual or religious belief you can use that faith to connect with the person who is no longer in your life and to accept what has happened.
Often the people who have suffered the worst loss and sadness in life go on to become the most impressive individuals who can inspire others with their compassion. They have used the sadness to open their hearts and gain self-awareness. Adversity can be our greatest teacher if we learn to accept all our experiences, both positive and negative.
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