How to Sit with Sadness

lean toward the discomfort of life and see it clearly rather than protect yourself from it – Pema Chodron

Have you ever felt sad? Come on be honest… we all feel sad at some point in our lives, in fact feeling sad is something that people spend a  lot of time and energy avoiding, but you can’t avoid it, sadness is a part of being alive. So when sadness arrives committing yourself to lean toward it and sit with it might sound like an onerous task, but it can tell you a lot.

Why  sadness?

The reality of my life (and if you want the full background you will have to read How did I get here) is that there are sometimes a number of significant trials associated with my severely disabled son and the surrounding consequences.

Part of the reason I decided to take a time out was the fact that he has been in hospital for a month and several times during this stay things have again been touch and go. On top of this my daughter (who as a five year old witnessed his accident ) has also been struggling over the past couple of months with her ability to continue to deal with the stress and memories of that day.

I guess it therefore comes as no surprise that I have had to deal with sadness during this time.

It is OK to be sad.

Sure that are a million messages out there on the internet telling you how to attempt to avoid it, how to get over it, how to put it behind you. However, no one can avoid it, remember being sad is simply a part of life, and if you try to avoid it it simply shows up in a different guise.

Why would anyone want to sit with their sadness.

I previously shared with you four lines to change your life and a key piece of advice in that post was that if you can’t or chose not to avoid something you need to accept it and to accept it you need to change your perception of it.

To accept that it is OK to be sad you really do need to change your perception of it and you cant do that while you are running away from it.

Sadness is transient and will pass, it is associated with an event or set of circumstances and in all likelihood you are continuing to cope with life and it is not having a direct impact on your ability to function.

So give your self permission to be sad. This does not mean that I am asking you to wallow in sadness, but to acknowledge that you are sad lean in to it and take a look at it, and sit with it.

How do you sit with sadness?

Firstly you have to acknowledge the feeling and stay with it. It will be a strange feeling at first!

Remind yourself that sadness is transient and will pass,  sadness is associated with an event or set of circumstances and that you are continuing to cope with life overall and it will pass in a matter of hours or a couple of days.

Observe your thoughts and feelings while you sit with your sadness. Watch your thoughts to see what they tell you about the circumstances of your sadness. While you are doing this don’t try to rationalise anything that arises, or dissect the events.. just watch your thoughts.

Sadness can bring tears with it, let them flow if and when they surface (yes REAL men can and should cry and I admit I do) tears can actually be very helpful, they are a great release and they actually trigger some beneficial chemistry in your body. When the tears stop again just watch your thoughts.

Sadness as an act of compassion

Allowing yourself to sit with your sadness is an act of compassion for yourself and in many cases is can also be an act of compassion towards others.

When my sadness surfaces around my son one of the things that really strikes me is a sense of absolute connectedness and compassion I feel for my son and my family, it doesn’t take away the long term sense of hurt or loss that I feel about our circumstances but the sense of love and connection with them does bring with it a sense of relief and an appreciation for what we do have together.

Which shows that there can be some beneficial things about sitting with your  sadness and using it as an act of compassion towards yourself (and/or others). One such benefit is that it helps us to appreciate happiness in our lives.

What is your experience of sadness?

What experience have you had with sadness and with sitting with it? share your experiences in the comments!

NOTE:  If feelings of sadness extend for a period of two weeks or more and are impacting on your ability to function you may be suffering from depression which is a whole different matter. If you need to check please visit a site like Beyond Blue to access a range of tests and advice around depression.

image credit: Gwendala