A Letter to My Friends in the Thick of It,
The dish broke in my hand. It was one of my pretty ones. Blue with birds on it, a gift. I knew I had dropped it into the porcelain sink too hard, but the breaking felt good, freeing.
My little man started crying. The sound jarring him, he didn’t understand. “Why is mommy so sad?”
How could he understand?
I hope that he never really understands, because I know that if he does he too has experienced the weight of heavy loss. I don’t want that burden upon his shoulders. I like him the way he is now, unabashed, intrepid.
I looked at the dish. My hands shaking as they held the pieces. I looked at my son. As calmly as I could, looked at my husband and said “I need some time.” In my room I closed my eyes and let the tears flow. It was true. Mommy was sad. So terribly terribly sad. I cried that night, cried and cried, cried for all my losses, cried for the peopled I’d never see again this side of heaven, I cried for children whom I’d never met, I cried over injustices. Violently, I cried.
Later, he walked into the room, laid in the bed next to me, wrapped his whole body around mine and prayed the simplest prayer, “Jesus, protect my wife.”
That week I carried my shame of being “a sad mommy” with me to a therapist. I sat in her office with heavy heart and began unburdening myself. I continued circling back to my shame. I felt so very ashamed of my sadness. I felt guilty because I can so easily sit and count my blessings, it just felt wrong to be sad.
She stopped me there, and affirmed the beauty and blessing within my life, but then when I feared she’d give me a “now buck up” she also affirmed that my sadness wasn’t manufactured but legitimate. She explained that there is actually a difference between depression and sadness, and in this case I was sad, and it’s okay to be sad. Sad isn’t an emotion that should just be swept under the rug because it’s not pretty. Hiding sadness leads to depression.
My shame began to lift. As it did my therapist offered tools to help manage “sad” and acknowledge “sad” without letting “sad” become my new identity. I returned to journaling, quiet-times, guilt-free napping, my yoga practice, long evening walks, and the occasional full body dunk in the Pacific ocean. “Sad” began to lift.
Through this blog I’ve had friends and strangers alike reach out to me about the “sad” that is weighing them down, keeping them in bondage. The more we talk the more I’m realizing that before we can even begin touching “sad” we first need to address “guilt” and “shame”.
Why is it that we feel so ashamed of sadness? It’s hard enough just to feel sad, but then to slap some added guilt on top is a recipe for spiraling into a full-fledged depression. So my friend, you, who is feeling sad today, whatever the reason, can I tell you something? IT IS OKAY, IT IS GOING TO BE OKAY. Feel your sad. Acknowledge, unashamed, your sad. Release the guilt that is trying to ensnare you. And then, guilt-free call a friend or loved one. Talk about it. Do something nourishing for yourself today. Take a nap. Let the dishes sit in the sink. Go for a walk. Write in your journal. Exhale.
It is going to be okay.