I have always believed that if you’re sad you must allow yourself to express those feelings because denying them, the more they grow. As we reach out to others for comfort it is often difficult for them to tolerate emotions like sadness because we are not supposed to be sad. Some unhelpful advice may sound like, “I’d love it if you would cheer up!” or “It’s all in your head, you’ll get over it!” or “No one ever said life was fair” and the topper, “Don’t you know there are people out there a lot worse off than you?”
You gotta love it—the remarks that you are not allowed to be sad. A friend called me and was shocked that something she said hurt me deeply. As I hung up the phone, I was very sad and it took a while to digest the hurt and how I was going to deal with it. Why do people say such silly hurtful things? Author Dave Barry said it best, “Everyone has a right to be stupid. Some just abuse the privilege!”
Sadness should be a right. If you feel sad that something made that happen, who is to say you cannot be? Who and where are the “sad police” located anyway? I don’t compare myself to others; it is my sadness, my own personal moment. Are there others out there much worse off than me? Of course there are, but that’s not the point. I am not talking about long-term sadness or grief. Sadness often comes in a moment, a life-affirming moment in time to reflect or think about whom we are evaluating, where we want to be, or how to cope.
Sadness is one of the four main human emotions—the others being happiness, fear, and anger. However, we are in a society that demands we seal sadness shut and remain upbeat and positive all the time. When you are sad it often makes others uncomfortable. So where is our sad stand? Our emotional response should be valued and time out should be given as well as a pass for our brief moment of distress.
I was in the bedroom a few weeks ago crying into my pillow when my husband walked in. “What do you think you are doing?” He asked cautiously. “What does it look like I am doing?” I said blinking the tears away, “I am crying because I am sad.” He eyed me carefully, not sure what to say. “What do you have to be sad about?” He says utterly clueless. I just sat on the side of the bed looking at him because it’s not bad enough being sad but now I have to explain? Seriously, why do we have to explain? Why can’t we just have that sadness, quiet, or screaming moment of our own? We don’t have to share it. Sometimes the best feelings have no words to describe them, it’s okay once in a while to have a meltdown. Even Charlotte Brontë said, “The shadows are as important as the light.”
Sometimes you just have to give yourself a little pep talk like, I guess I should learn to smile more to avoid happiness advice. Life is just too short to be normal so I am going to stay weird!
After retiring from a career as senior partner in a commercial architectural and interior design firm, Becky Kueker published a memoir on life after retirement, Hiding in My Pajamas that launched a national speaking career. Her second book, A Classic in Clown Shoes was published in May 2019. Both books are filled with deep, funny, intimate discussions and poignant stories from women and men who have proven that aging does not have to define you and that laughter changes everything.