Sadness: What is it good for

Sadness is a hard emotion: maybe the hardest to feel. In previous posts, I’ve addressed what emotions are good for (fearanger)  and answered the basic question of what that emotion is trying to tell us. And with most other emotions, once we get to what it is trying to tell us, that message usually is a big neon sign pointing to the resolution of an unpleasant feeling.

But this is not so with sadness.

Sadness lets us know that we have lost something dear to us.

This loss can be anything from a treasured possession to our favorite person. The common thread is that we loved what is now lost to us.

But recognizing the cause, in this case, does not lead to a resolution of the feeling. It often sucks us deeper into it when we set aside our distractions and numbing strategies and feel the sadness of the loss.

The fear is that we will get so far into the hole that we’ll never be able to climb out of it. The truth is that we can’t climb out of it because we can never get back to the spot we were in before the loss. The hope is that we will dig so far that we will see the light in a new place: One that is different, but somehow more real having lived through the pain.

The digging takes work. It is work that is hard to do alone and, honestly, shouldn’t be done alone. The work starts with recognizing what you’ve lost and how it alters your life and making adjustments from there.

I really wish we would start using the word “sad” more.

As a culture, we’ve allowed the word “depressed” to be sad’s synonym, and that is unfortunate. The hallmark of sad is that we have lost something we love. The difference between even profound sadness and depression is that depression often has no identifiable object of sadness. It is an ambiguous, suffocating blanket of lack of will, feelings of worthlessness, and apathy. Sometimes sadness turns into depression, but they are not the same.

Depression is not an okay state to stay in. Tell a trusted person how you are feeling and summon the energy to seek help.

So let’s start using sad again: from, “I’m sad my favorite cereal is empty.” to “I’m still sad I lost my dad years ago.” Expressing sadness can be an invitation for others to join you where you are and comfort you. Share it with people you trust to pick up a shovel and dig with you, not try to whack the feeling out of you with it.

Photo Credit: Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

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