Ripped and torn and scattered and broken; that is the landscape in the aftermath of the deadly tornado that left a swath of destruction from Nashville to Cookeville, TN. As if it decided to take a drive down Interstate 40, it is marked as a black horizontal dash on the map. That dash reflects so much and has been resuscitated by thousands of volunteers who have come to its aid.
In the immediate aftermath of the terror and loss, recovery efforts included milling through debris and items we all so often dismiss as “stuff”. Rightly so, when compared to the value of life, but we mustn’t offhandedly diminish its value. In that “stuff” are things like a little boy’s teddy bear, that, when found after a 2-hour search, brought him the solace and comfort he needed. In that “stuff” is a life we have built with others. In that “stuff” are memories and remnants of who we are, or once were.
There is an account of a young woman who understood about the “stuff” and encouraged other volunteers to take care with the items they were sorting into piles. She saw the living that took place in the “stuff” and she meant to honor it. Mourning is a form of honoring; it is the action that moves us all through grief. Our city is mourning right now, but we are moving through our grief with extraordinary accounts of people coming together to rebuild. There is hope—a hope that was born by hearts that came alongside others in sadness and determination.
Most of us don’t like to be sad. We do our best not to be sad. We protect our children from sadness. You know what I’m talking about; when we tell each other to cheer up, or distract someone from feeling the “‘feels”. We want to circumvent that emotional highway at all costs. It doesn’t feel good, it’s embarrassing, and it’s disruptive. But when we do that, we can miss out on something significant
Sadness is purposeful. Sadness is honoring. Sadness is cleansing. Sadness is necessary. Yet, we often won’t allow ourselves to sit in it, let it run through us, and then be on its way. That’s what feelings do…they move through us and go on their way, but we take a cautionary approach to sadness because we’re afraid we’ll get stuck in it. We fear that it might bring up, or turn into something we can’t handle.
Counter to what we may think, sadness is a normal, healthy, positive emotion that allows us to deal with painful experiences. It can be cathartic and relieve tension. Clinical psychologist Robin Dee Post, Ph.D. says, “It aids in empathy for ourselves and what we’re going through, but it’s also an emotion that can help us access other people’s pain and suffering.” Post explains that sadness is also one feature of depression—they’re closely tied, but not exactly the same. Being sad is normal and healthy and will pass; depression has a negative impact on your life and needs to be addressed to get you back to a happy, healthy, functional place again.
I like this simple way to tell the difference between sadness and depression offered by Guy Winch, Ph.D.:
Sadness is being sad about something and
depression is being sad about everything.
Sadness is healthy—depression is not. Sadness is short term, accomplishing its work within a 2-week time-frame.
Grief is an extension of sadness. It’s a normal reaction to tremendous loss, it lasts longer than sadness and has stages. I believe grief is God’s invitation to climb into His lap and weep with Him. Grief and sadness are healthy works of the heart that, for the most part, we try to avoid. But, when we do, we forfeit experiencing the still depths of insight, relief, and abiding with God. We deny others the chance to sit with us and feel with us in a shared honoring of a wrong, loss, or injustice. Some things are tear worthy, and God awaits to collect them from us.
DO SADNESS WITH GOD
Don’t be afraid of sadness, instead allow sadness to bring honor to places in your heart that have been painful. Sit in it, journal it, create art with it, pray through it, but most importantly, allow it to move through you. Do sadness with God and with a trusted friend who can just sit with you in it. And, eventually, become that friend that can sit with others, whether in a brief moment or in the aftermath of a storm. Storms pass and so does sadness; both invite us to rebuild.
Jesus wept, and was sad over Jerusalem. He had compassion on the masses, and was repeatedly disappointed by His disciples. Jesus knows sadness, but His sadness contains hope and determination too. He didn’t discount His sadness, even knowing the hope that He would bring to eradicate it; no, He honored and practiced sadness often.
Sadness, grief, and depression are closely tied, but as you can see, they are different. The families in Nashville that withstood tremendous loss of life and property will be grieving for quite a while. The sadness of the relief workers moved them to compassionate action, as well as helped them connect emotionally and spiritually with those afflicted. And yes, there is a very real threat of situational depression given these circumstances, but, while each of these are different, they are all meant to be shared. They are not a solitary path. Loneliness doesn’t have to be a profile of any of these. Reach out and ask someone to not “fix or distract” you, but to just be sad with you. Thank them for their company and move on; don’t ruminate or stay stuck in sadness, because sadness is a friend that is okay with saying goodbye.
The Bible says there is a time for everything, it gives us permission to walk this road in the company of a God who knows sadness well and invites us to join Him. He beckons us to shed a tear for our loss, for injustice, and for this fallen world we live in because He above all, understands.
If you, or someone you know, has been experiencing sadness for a prolonged period of time, click here to learn how Psychology Today defines depression, and here to understand the signs and levels of depression. Most importantly, consult a professional with any questions.
Curious about the level of your emotional intelligence skills? A couple coaching sessions would give you the space to discover strengths and gaps. As a Coach certified in emotional intelligence, I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you’d like to explore this further, then let’s chat. I’d love to be your champion in what God is calling you to do!
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