Wellbeing: sadness performs an important function


Sadness and grief can suck. Those feelings don’t feel good, so understandably, people give them a wide berth. But there’s a big spectrum of sadness. It can be the ‘bitch, please’ frustration of your miniature pooch Fifi Lovepuff chewing up the Art Deco diamante tiara you wanted her to wear at the Pride Fair Day. Or, it can be a truly impactful event like the loss of a parent or partner.

Words: Paul Martin is the Senior Psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential.

Sadness performs an important function. It allows us to recover from the loss of emotional attachments irretrievably taken from us. If you suppress sadness, it will likely bite you in the butt down the track. And not in a good way!

Fortunately, there are simple tools that help to process sadness and grief. Otherwise, you might carry those emotions around with you — unaware of their ongoing impact on your life.

People often confuse sadness with depression. Understandably, they don’t want to go there. But, sadness and grief are actually very different to depression. However, the experience can feel similar, so first up, you need to differentiate between them.

Depression vs Sadness and Grief

Depression will cause sadness. However, sadness need not make you depressed. Depression can stay with you for a long time. It will stop you from doing things. But sadness doesn’t stick around. Sadness and grief come and go in waves. They do not impact your motivation or interests.

Some people fear that if they feel sad, they will lose control. The reality is the opposite. For example, when you lose a parent or partner, the grief response is usually quite strong, particularly at the beginning. If you allow yourself to grieve by remembering the good times and what you miss about them, you will probably cry a lot. But eventually, you can think about them without crying. You’ll always feel sadness but not to the point of crying as much, if at all.

However, if you suppress your emotional response through drinking a lot, taking drugs, falling in love again soon after the ending of a good relationship, the feelings don’t disappear. In fact, they can lead to anxiety, depression and other negative issues down the track leaving you less in control.

Process sadness by treating it like body surfing. Catch a wave and it takes you to the shore. Powerful waves take longer to process but when you do battle through the surf, the waves become less intense. In this way, you begin to control how you express your sadness.

As always, if you feel that you have a lot of sadness that you just can’t budge and it’s impacting on your life, make sure you visit your GP for a Mental Health Care Plan and see a psychologist with LGBTIQ+ experience such as those at Centre for Human Potential.

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