How do you feel about sadness? It’s an odd question, because surely we should all feel comfortable with all the emotions, but I’ve come to realise (particularly in the last few months) that that isn’t true for me. Here’s what I’ve unpacked…
I was a weird kid. Deeply loved, constantly surrounded by family, yet often sad and very teary… For no reason. I was a crybaby deluxe. But I remember that feeling of sadness, especially when I first started school and had to leave my mom. I remember it acutely. Once I was settled at school, I learnt the rules of engagement and thrived. I unconsciously absorbed that if you’re happy, you’re well liked and people approve; if you’re sad, not so much.
This feeling grew as I grew, and in high school I remember my bestie and I choosing our superhero names and mine was Happy Girl. I was only happy when I was… happy. This worked very well, by and large, and I have always had a (naturally) sunny disposition. But it meant that any time I felt sad (which happens, as we all know) it was deeply uncomfortable and I tried to fix it as quickly as possible. My recipe for getting over sadness is romantic comedy + tea + chocolate, and it’s pretty foolproof.
Except, not really. Because sadness is an emotion, and emotions are energy in motion, and if you block them up they don’t disappear, they just transform into something else. I’m weirdly comfortable with all the other emotions, I think – apparently there are six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise. I don’t enjoy fear or disgust, but I don’t run away from them. I think of anger as a clean fire burning things away and I love surprise and am an expert at happiness. But sadness? That’s been hard for me.
Until recently. The combination of very real grief at my friend imminently dying and all this work I’ve been doing on myself (reiki, soul retrieval, life coaching) has brought up sadness as something I need to look at, and accept. It’s time to return to the six-year-old belief that happy is good and sad is bad, and uproot it. Because there is beauty in sadness too, and it is a perfectly natural part of life.
I’m not saying I relish it, or that it’s fundamentally changed my interior make-up (thankfully, I’m still pretty buoyant most of the time). But today, for example, I realised that I have to find a new endocrinologist, because mine has a new job and is so busy that I couldn’t get an appointment for 4 months (after a 5 month gap). I’ve realised that I actually need to be held accountable for my diabetes more often than that. I’ve been with my endo for 9 years and I love him: he got me through two healthy pregnancies (no mean feat with diabetes) and he is irreverent and funny and always asks about life before asking about diabetes. I love him. But for my health, I need someone who is available every 3 months and who I can ask all my incredibly detailed diabetes questions, and get answers. So we’ve ‘broken up’, in the nicest possible way, and I am so sad about it.
What would I have felt before? I don’t know. But I feel like the sadness floodgates have opened and so I’m just swimming around in it for a while. Maybe they’ll close again? Maybe this is what everyone else has been feeling while I’ve been on sadness lockdown? I’m not sure. But I do know it feels natural, and good (in its own way) and being comfortable with all the feels is something I really want to pass on to my children.
On that note, here is a wonderful podcast I listened to yesterday about intentional parenting and acceptance and many other lovely things, with Gwyneth Paltrow (who is delightful! Who knew?)
I’m going to have a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate and feel sad for a bit.
The Grief Handbook
The Grief Handbook is out on the 13th July 2021!
You can find out all about it, and where to buy it, on www.griefhandbook.com