An excerpt from "It’s Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss."
by Edy Nathan
Sadness is quieter than anger, fear, despair, or guilt and often leads to greater vulnerability. Your veil is lowered, and your defense mechanisms are not as necessary as they once were. Sadness is adaptive and vital to your being. The dance with sadness is easier, slower, and more consistently calm than the other phases. It’s fluid. It’s tender. It’s the poetry of loss and mourning in motion. The gift of sadness sets the stage for integration and healing. At this juncture, you have the capacity to be consoled.
Sadness offers your soul a very keen sense of relief. Tapping into it can occur as you move within the other phases. It offers a respite from the depths of depression, detachment, or disorganization. During the phase of sadness, you find the beginnings of internal peace. You’re not as psychologically and emotionally conflicted as you may have been. Sadness is not an insistent or pervasive experience. Barbara Kingsolver said it best in her book, The Bean Trees: “Sadness is more or less like a head-cold—with patience it passes. Depression is like cancer.”
This sacred sorrow greets you without illusion or denial. It’s part of you, and unlike the other phases, sadness is a personal lament. It isn’t overbearing, and you can exist with sadness without trying to eliminate it from your life. It just is. It’s part of you, yet it doesn’t regulate or deregulate your moods. It’s part of how you flow. When you’re sad, you’re reacting to your situation, but your sense of Self and core sense of safety are intact and in balance.
In an Us Magazine interview, Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda said in relation to her father’s suicide, “Avoiding fear, sadness, or anger is not the same thing as being happy. I live my sadness every day, but I don’t resent it anymore . . . I know how dark and endless that tunnel can feel, but if happiness seems impossible to find, please hold on to the possibility of hope, faint though it may be, because I promise you, there’s enough nights under the same yellow moon for all of us to share, no matter how or when you find your way there.”
Like the other phases, your relationship to sadness changes over time. Be deliberate in the intention to integrate sadness into everyday living as you strengthen your footing. Although this phase is filled with challenges, you’ll feel less foggy and more precise with your thoughts, reactions, and feelings. You can touch this phase and dance with the other phases. As the grip of grief lessens, you might find that you engage with sadness more frequently. Allowing this relationship between you and sadness is illuminating and freeing. This can be a time of enlightenment.
Ambivalence, an active feature of sadness, sets in although you may crave to be decisive about who you are, what you think, and how you will continue to live within the parameters of this journey. Surrender and let it be. Honor the ambivalence and the sadness when they surface. Not only will you recognize when sadness leaves, you will also know that at times it initiates the dance, while at others it follows your lead.
The essence of sadness is a form of reward because it’s a sign that you have achieved more emotional balance. You’ve started to integrate the feelings that resulted from your loss or trauma. The realization of what you’ve battled, how you adjusted to what is behind you, and realization about what lies ahead can create both literal and metaphorical tears. Growing awareness, letting go, and forward motion leads to healing of what had been a shattered heart. As the wounded heart heals, you come to realize that it’s okay to be sad. It’s part of you. It’s a gentle reminder of what you lost and what you’ve mourned.
Edy Nathan, MA, LCSWR, author of "It’s Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss". She is a licensed therapist, AASECT certified sex therapist, hypnotherapist and certified EMDR practitioner with more than 20 years of experience. For two seasons in 2010, she was the psychotherapist on the A&E series “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal.”