Ladies and gentlebeings, I’d like to talk a little about grief. Not the sexiest subject in the world I grant you, but it’s one that nearly everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Now lest you think that I’m going to take you on a downer trip of melancholy and despair, I assure that my goal is quite the opposite. I think you’ll come out the other end of this essay feeling uplifted and joyful. That is my fervent hope at least. Let us begin.
I occasionally have what I call “sad days.” These are times in which I’m suddenly taken by a memory or a sense of melancholy for my late fiancee and her sister. These waves of emotion usually occur at night and can leave one quite breathless with their intensity. Even now, over a decade later, the weight of the sadness that grips my heart can be slightly overwhelming. It’s entirely possible you’ve experienced something similar.
For many years I struggled through these incidents, believing myself to be broken, or otherwise emotionally unhealthy. I kept them secret for fear of judgement or worse. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that, not only are they entirely normal and healthy, they are actually a positive thing.
Before I get into my process for dealing with sad days, we need to talk about the concept of sadness itself. The grief that comes with loss can feel absolutely debilitating. We feel as if these recurring bouts of emotion are a form of torture or punishment, reminding us of the empty space left in our lives by the passing of someone dear to us. But what if we have it all wrong?
I submit that sadness can, in some circumstances, be a positive emotion. No, I haven’t gone insane, nor have you stumbled into some kind of Bizarro-world (the recent US election results not withstanding). Stay with me dear reader, all will become clear.
If you would be so groovy, allow me to share with you my method for dealing with my sad days. It may seem a little strange at first, but I believe it will help when things get intense. I call it, “Sitting with the Sadness”
Step 1: Acknowledge It. When you feel the sadness coming on, try and find a comfortable place where you can be alone, like a bedroom. Acknowledge and accept the sadness’ presence. It may sound obvious, but people’s reactions to it are often quite different. More on that in a bit.
Step 2: Thank It. I know it sounds odd, but go with me on this. After you acknowledge the sadness, it’s important to thank it for what it’s about to bring. Why? We’ll get to that a little later. For now, just trust me on this. Besides, gratitude is always the right response.
Step 3: Let it Flow. This is the easiest part, because you don’t have to do anything. Literally. Simply let the emotions flow through you without restrictions. There will probably be a lot of tears, and that’s ok. Don’t analyze, judge or try to control them. Just let it flow.
And that’s it. Now, you may be wondering how long this process takes. As with all things emotional, it will take… as long as it takes. You must be patient Grasshopper.
At the end of the process, there may be some lingering sadness, but odds are you’ll feel much lighter, as if a great weight has been lifted from your soul.
Many people don’t react in this conscious way to the onrush of sadness that comes with grief. Sadly I spent many years behaving in this way. The “process,” such as it is, looks much different:
Step 1: Avoidance/Denial. Quite often people will pretend that the emotions they’re feeling aren’t really there. They “work through it” or “bury their feelings.” Men in our society are often encouraged (if not expected) to do this.
Step 2: Hatred/Fear. Even when people do acknowledge the grief, they couch it with so much negativity that they lose sight of the love and deep connection that made the grief possible in the first place.
Step 3: Hold on for Dear Life. Rather than letting the emotions flow through them like water, they grab and hang on to the pain like a drowning man holding a life preserver.
The first two steps can be explained, but why would someone want to hold on to pain? The simple answer is that they mistake the pain of loss for the loving connection with the person they’ve lost. Sometimes, in the depths of despair, it can feel as if the pain is the only tangible thing they have left.
I call this process, “Sitting in the Sadness,” and I can speak from bitter experience, it’s corrosive. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, even physically.
Now dear reader, I told you that you’d come out the other end of this essay uplifted did I not? Well then, submitted for your approval: Here’s an insight that I think will put a smile on your face, and possibly even some joy in your heart. It’s a simple tune and goes like this:
I believe that sadness doesn’t punish us by reminding us of what we once had, it blesses us by reminding us of what we still have.
And what do we still have you ask? Love, my fine, and decidedly unfeathered friends. A love so pure, so rich and so deep that it even transcends death itself.
I want you to take a moment and think about that. It’s ok… I’ll wait.
Yeah… that’s what I thought.
Looking at it that way, grief and sadness, experienced consciously and without excess, may be one of the most beautiful gifts we could ever receive.