Sometimes Self-Care Includes Sad

This has been on my mind for a little while.  It probably started during a #BCSM (Breast Cancer & Social Media) chat about dealing with bumps and ruts in the journey toward health.  Moderator Alicia Staley (@stales) asked me if was “okay to stay in a rut sometimes.”  My reflexive answer to that was, “Yes, of course.”

That might be a surprising answer to those of you who don’t know me.  After all, aren’t psychologists part of the mechanism that we use to “fix” our painful feelings?  Certainly the commercials about mental health issues (nearly always to sell a medication) suggest that we shouldn’t have do deal with feeling sad, or worried, or angry, or tired.  Those feelings need to be fixed.

But I’m not in the business of fixing feelings.

I believe that all of our feelings have value, and communicate important things to us about our needs and experiences in the world.

My job is to help my clients increase their understanding of their feelings, what triggers them, and how to best cope with feelings in a way that is healthy and respectful to themselves.

And sometimes, the healthy and appropriate way to feel is sad. Carolyn Thomas, of the excellent Heart Sisters blog, has a fantastic post about the pressure that heart patients feel to “put on a smiley face“– and the damage that this relentless false positivity can cause.

If you have been diagnosed with a life-changing or life-threatening illness, feeling sad sometimes means that you are aware of just how much your life has altered–not that you have a bad attitude.  If you have faced a loss, or are caring for a loved one in pain, feeling sad means that you are aware of the value that person has in your life, and how their absence has or will affect you.

Sadness isn’t our enemy.  We don’t need to banish it.  We don’t need to push it back.  Sometimes, good self-care is allowing yourself to acknowledge that you are sad.  Sometimes, good self-care includes a cleansing cry.  Sometimes it includes having solitude to process your sadness, and sometimes it includes finding others who can respect and share the sadness.

This is often a tough issue for friends and loved ones.  I’ve talked before about the difficulty that people who care about you may have with your pain.  It can be tough for them to understand that expressing your sadness is an important part of health–that crying about something painful doesn’t mean giving up.

Sadness is often a reminder of the things that are most important to us.  You deserve the opportunity to feel your sadness, to let it flow out of you.  That’s part of what makes room for joy.

Need help with that?  Drop me a line.  Have a favorite way to express sadness?  Please share in the comments.


Image: “Sad Girl in Silhouette” used via Creative Commons License

11 thoughts on “Sometimes Self-Care Includes Sad

  1. Amen! I could not agree more. Thank you for writing this. I have found forced positivity to be the opposite of healing. Sometimes we just need to feel sad and to let it all out before we feel ready to lift our heads and look to the future. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    p.s. One of my favourite quotes of all time is from “Letters To A Young Poet” by Rainer Rilke. In letter number 8 (about sadness) he asks, “What if all of the dragons in our lives are really princesses waiting to see us both beautiful and brave?” I believe sadness is a necessary emotion and a wise teacher.

  2. I completely agree with you. So often there is pressure to feel a certain way or to not feel a certain way. Feelings are meant to be felt, even the not so pleasant ones. My favorite “trick” for dealing with feelings of any kind is to journal about them. And of course blogging sometimes works too. Thanks for this important post which offers validation – something we all crave.

    1. I, like Nancy, feel vindicated after writing about my feelings, haven’t really found it within me to cry. Doesn’t mean I’m not sad, because I am. But I sort of feel like I have to keep moving forward and not let Breast Cancer bog me down. Not strong, not warrior like, just trying to survive it all and not let it rip through my mind. ~D

      1. Diane,

        Each person is allowed to deal with feelings in their own way–there isn’t one right way to have feelings, just like there isn’t one right way to do life. It sounds like you are doing your best to balance expressing your feelings with maintaining a sense of control in your life.


  3. Thanks so much for your kind comments about/link to my blog, HEART SISTERS. Thanks also for reminding us that often our belief that we must keep that “smiley face” pasted on – no matter what! – comes from a reluctance to burden those we love with even more worry or pain about the reality of our condition and all those accompanying “negative” feelings we understandably harbour towards that reality.

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