It's Okay to be Sad

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It's okay to be sad.

It's okay to mourn a life — or better yet, a vision of your life — that isn't playing out exactly as you imagined it to be. Maybe it's an early pregnancy that's steering your life in a direction you never intended. Maybe it's a career path that seems unrealistic, or unfulfilling, or impossible. Maybe it's a person who's disappointed you again and again, and as much as you want this person to be strong enough, or loving enough, or something enough, you're facing the possibility of moving on without him.

Maybe it's a painful loss, of any kind.

Because life is unpredictable and no amount of wishing or praying or planning can make life happen according to our terms.

People will tell you to accept life as it is. To take comfort in knowing that things seem to work out in unimaginably beautiful ways, and what hurts now will later turn out to be an important turning point for all the right reasons. People will tell you there's a plan, and to have faith. And I'm sure these people are right. Heck, I've been that person — retelling a story of a 21-year-old girl who held a positive pregnancy test over a bathroom sink and imagined her life circling the drain, only to become exactly the person she needed to be. All because of that scary, surreal, fist-shaking-at-the-sky pregnancy.

But all of those well-meaning, truth-shedding ideas won't take away the sadness in the pit of your stomach. Even for those of us who've learned the lessons of patience and faith and hindsight gratitude (ahem), we'll still find ourselves in a place of numbing, paralyzing sadness.  It's never easy to witness a piece of your life dissolve right through your clutched hands — whether that's a person, an identity, or an imaginary plan.

I used to mask my sadness, deny reality, as my belly grew and morphed all on its own. Not only because I was scared to feel it, but because I couldn't have those kind of negative emotions surging through my body during a pregnancy! How damaging! What kind of mother would do such a thing?

Except I've learned a thing or two since then. Here's what I know now:

It's okay to be sad.

Sit with the sadness. In the quiet, in the stillness, just sit and breathe and feel the sadness. The longer you avoid it, the longer it festers.

Feel it. Acknowledge it. Call it by name: "Hello, Sadness." ....Let it go.

Sometimes the only way to rise above an emotion is to pass through it. And just like everything born into this world, there's an impermanence to our sadness — no matter how alive it feels right now.

It's also okay to be angry.

Angry at Life, angry at yourself, angry at anyone who pities you or gossips behind your back. Angry at a person who isn't living up to your expectations.

Feel it. Acknowledge it. Call it by name: "Hello, Anger." ....Let it go.

Anger has an ability to consume us, to cloud our judgement like a sticky, rolling fog. So don't sit with it for too long. Instead, recognize that all anger comes from hurt. Pinpoint the hurt. Feel the hurt. Cry, scream, let it out — feel it. And then be kind to the part of you that's bruised. Remind yourself that it's okay to feel the way you're feeling.

Love the sadness, love the anger, love the hurt. Find compassion for yourself.

It's okay to be scared.

And I'm not talking about anxiety — the very normal, very human, reaction to something scary that might happen in the future, yet largely lives in our minds. I'm talking about F E A R. The gripping terror of something that's happening right now, or soon.

Feel it. Acknowledge it. Call it by name: "Hello, Fear." ...Let it go.

Fear is a powerful emotion, and it'll Godzilla the hell out of your life if given full control. But it's okay to feel it.

We all feel it.

Our emotions are necessary. Our emotions make us human.

And no matter how many times we hear, "This too shall pass," or "Time heals all wounds," that's not what's happening right now.

Right now we have to feel those emotions, to listen to them, to accept them. Our emotions aren't a weakness or a failure — even the ones that feel like they'll swallow us alive.

Right now we'll sit with our sadness and forgive ourselves for our humanity.

It's important to mention that we don't have to sit alone — sometimes it's best if we don't. Sometimes we need to sit with a friend, or a professional. Someone who won't try to fix our problems or offer suggestions; someone who will sit with us, nod, put their arm around us.

Someone who will sit in the silence, in the stillness, and feel the things we all feel.

The things it's okay to feel.

You can attempt to climb over your emotions, or slink underneath. Maybe you're looking for an alternate route via distractions and denials. But, speaking from experience, the only way to the other side is through — in all its vulnerable, raw, painful reality.

You'll make it through.

I'll make it through.

We always do.