Have you noticed that there are different varieties of sadness?  It can be quite helpful to interpret which sadness you’re experiencing so that you’ll know which needs are requiring attention. I’m sure there are many other variations but two of the most obvious types of sadness are in response to:

– feeling loss, and

– feeling hurt or powerless.

This blog is about the sadness of loss.

One of the most helpful roles of sadness is to reveal to us that we’ve experienced a loss. Loss is often understood as related to death because death delivers the most extreme kind of separation pain, however, there are many other less obvious sources of loss. All the significant and insignificant events in life involve a certain amount of leaving or letting go of the old so as to accommodate the change and take hold of the new.    

Some events are all about embracing the new – like moving house or getting a new job.  Paying homage to the old house or job can look more like a smile and a wave.  Even celebrating a birthday carries a certain amount of loss. A child turning 10 might not particularly notice or care about the fact that 9 will never be experienced again, however someone turning 50 might be acutely aware that 49 has gone for good (even those who’ve decided to remain 49 for years).  The sadness of that ‘farewell’ can feel intolerable. 

Many losses can involve a lot more looking back and a noticeable hesitance to face forward. Ageing brings losses that are often not noticed until they become unavoidable – like loss of easy mobility – but these losses have been occurring gradually all along.  It can be an interesting exercise to give some thought to the many small and incremental losses (not just physical ones) as your life trundles on – and the reason is so you can grieve them.

Grief is quite a gift.  It is an active way of dealing with losses, small and large.  It assists our internal processing and keeps us emotionally healthy, even in our sorrow.  In fact, it is thought that if we don’t participate in the normal, uncomplicated process of grieving losses, the grieving can become complicated. Complicated grief can be linked to feelings of emotional ‘stuckness’ and even physical symptoms.

Saying goodbye to some stages of life, like: not having car expenses; not being a home owner; not having children; not being in a relationship; can seem like smaller, less sorrowful losses to grieve because saying goodbye to these stages usually indicates exciting changes.  But they are losses none-the-less and might appreciate a respectful nod of farewell. (Goodbye childhood dependence, hoo-roo renting, cheerio singleness – it’s been nice knowing ya.)

The bigger, more obvious losses are definitely in need of engaging in a conscious dance with the grieving process. Sadness is the emotion that lets us know that we’ve experienced a loss and grieving is an active way of responding to the sadness with care and compassion. There are a lot of ideas out there about how to grieve but the important thing to remember is that it’s quite an individual process. Your way of grieving isn’t right or wrong but just… your way. (As long as it doesn’t outwork in behaviours that hurt yourself or others, your way is a valid way to process grief).

Sometimes however, you’re feeling gutted by sadness, and you notice that it’s not really about loss.  It might appear instead to be attached to a very deep, very old pain. This is a different kind of sadness.  Sadness that has a different role in your system and needs a different kind of response. 

Watch this space…