Is There a Silver Lining in Sadness

I thought we were past the boomerang generation—kids moving out and then back in again as their job possibilities ebb and flow.

But, it was not to be.

While it was at our invitation, our youngest son moved in for the summer after his roommate moved out and he found himself at loose ends. Living with us he was able to work hard at a daytime job and pursue his passion for music while building a bit of a nest egg.

While in the end I’m not sure it’s a good idea for adult children to move back in with their parents, it did give us a chance to hang out and have some fun as well as more serious conversations.

Like many of today’s Gen Xers and Millennials, our son has had his share of ups and downs as he struggles to find his niche as well as a decent paying job. As a result, more than one of our conversations focused on happiness. I found myself saying what every parent likely has said at some point, “All I want is for you to be happy”.

Yet, thinking about it afterward, I wondered if that really is the answer. Although we live in a world where we are bombarded by information about being happy and its pursuit has often become obsessive, what would happen if we were happy all the time?

Quite frankly, I think the novelty would wear off, we’d get bored, and ultimately stop valuing happiness.

Of course, everyone wants to be happy and it is something we should all be striving for, but maybe it’s sometimes okay to acknowledge being sad. After all, isn’t acknowledging rather than suppressing our emotions, ultimately what’s going to make us happy in life?

I’m not saying we should pursue or celebrate sadness but maybe it’s okay to accept and embrace our sadness as being crucial to living a full life. When we push ourselves to explore our sadness, it helps us think about our relationship with the world in new ways and, ultimately, relate to the world in a richer, deeper way.

Maybe we do need to stop thinking about feelings of sadness or unhappiness as being the enemy and that if we experience these emotions there must be something wrong with us.

Too often it seems we deny being sad, hold back the tears, and put on a happy face. And while there may be some merit to what Dale Carnegie taught me—“Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic”—maybe we are better off acknowledging and exploring the root causes of sadness rather than simply suppressing them.

Experience has taught me that if we continue to suppress the sadness, or what we see as bad or uncomfortable feelings, the harder it is to climb away from the dark times.

Sometimes, I think it is okay to wallow and acknowledge that you are sad—within limits of course. I am a big fan of pity parties with a time limit and have often given myself time to acknowledge I’m going through a tough time and allow myself to be sad for a day. Typically just giving myself permission to be sad and indulge does the trick and I don’t even need the full 24 hours. Surrendering to sadness without resistance, seems to contribute to it leaving much sooner.

Ultimately I guess I don’t want my son to push away from his emotions and feelings. After all, life is full of both richness and sadness and, if we are to live a full and meaningful life, we need to accept all of our emotions.

So, while I remain constant in wanting our kids to be happy, I guess what I’m really saying is that I also want them to be able to feel and express all of their emotions without fear—good and bad, happy, and sad.

Posted on 09-09-12


Really great blog, Brenda!  I know that I’ll often put on that brave face as opposed to just embracing when I feel sad.  There is a lesson in sadness and the motivation to cherish the times when we are happy.

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  09/12/12  at  11:06 AM

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