Sinking Into Sadness — How To Let Yourself Feel Sad So You Can Pull Yourself Out

Last week, I went to a funeral for a woman I had known for a very long time and who meant so much to so many people. About 500 people attended the service for this beloved woman, including countless friends, her kids, and her grandkids.

During the funeral, I found myself crying out of sadness for her loved ones, and for myself since I knew her and her family. After the funeral, I got caught up in a very sad state and I couldn’t get myself out of it. I was finding it hard to focus on anything else, so I asked myself what it was that was keeping me from pulling myself out of this engulfing sadness.

I’ve experienced loss and been sad many times before and somehow always managed to get myself to a happier place, but this time felt different. I tried to figure out why this time was different – why the sadness felt deeper. So, I did what I tell my clients to do: I allowed myself to just ask a question without judging myself and without feeling sorry for myself. And I realized two things.

For one thing, this was different because it hit so close to home. The woman was a mom of someone who I knew and it made me think about my mom and what would happen to me if I had lost her. Of course, this is something that had crossed my mind previously, but this time somehow felt different. Second, I realized the fact that my mom lived so far away filled me with guilt. I’ve lived far away from my mom for the past 20 years and this funeral brought up questions, such as how would my relationship be different with my mom if I could live in Israel? What kind of relationship would my mom have with my kids if I lived closer to her? And, the hardest question to ask was, How would I feel if my mom was gone?

As the weekend approached, these feelings of sadness had gotten worse and worse. I went out and surrounded myself with friends and loved ones, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about my family in Israel and how much I have missed them. And the more I thought about it, the lonelier I felt. Tears kept coming down and I couldn’t stop myself.

I tried focusing on my breathing, I tried listening to meditation affirmations, I tried self talk, and even against every bone in my body, I dragged myself to the gym. Basically, I tried everything that I’ve been teaching my clients to do when they feel sad, but nothing worked.

I then realized that what I hadn’t practiced on myself but I preach to my clients and friends and love ones was that just like anything, I needed to allow myself to be sad for a little longer this time – and that was OK.

Sadness and grief are strong emotions and they are a part of life. Sometimes, feeling sad is inevitable and sometimes the only way to get back to a happy place is to let yourself feel that sadness for a bit.

The normal things we do to bring ourselves joy don’t always work when we are experiencing a loss or new feelings of loneliness, but as long as you maintain perspective and practice healthy coping mechanisms the sadness won’t win out in the long run.

Here are three things you can do when you find yourself sad and don’t know what to do about it.

  1.  Allow yourself to just be without judging yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about being sad. There is no “rule” for how long it’s OK to feel sad about something. Don’t judge your own emotions – they are real.
  2.  Think about what you love to do but can never find the time for. Go do it!
  3.   Spend time with people who are important to you. While it’s not always possible to get to the people you want to see most, you should try to always find people you like to be around who make you happy. Let those people be your comfort while you are feeling sad. As for me, I am leaving for Israel today. I need to be around those people who mean the world to me!

What can you do today to make yourself happy?

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