Welcoming Sadness: Sitting with the Pain of Loss

Sometimes, we just need to sit with our pain. Maybe we breathe through it, or make it the focus of our meditation, or we just wail into the void, but we stay with it, for an hour or an evening or a good cry. My yoga teacher friend would call this “holding space” for someone who’s absent.

I didn’t do a Valentine’s Post this year because I couldn’t write about this most sugary, heart-shaped holiday without saying only, ”I miss my husband George right now.” I kept seeing his face behind my eyes each time I closed them. So, I thought about him, and wore my wedding rings at home and, for a couple evenings, I just missed him. A lot.

I’m usually trying to cope with my with loss through action, like setting up drinks with the girls or buying new throw pillows. I’ve tried to to swim in the cesspool that is online adult dating. But dating necessarily involves recovering from, or at least compartmentalizing, our loss enough to move on to new people. Maybe sometimes the only way to cope with loss is to invite it in, pour it a cup of tea and sit beside it.

I’d say to my loss, ”Oh, you’re back, and for now I’m unbearably sad. But I’l stay with you because you’re a part of me, and to try to shut you out is to run from myself.”

So much of what I’ve read about losing a spouse are warnings not to spend too much mourning. Are we doing enough to recover? Could we possibly be falling into the hole of complicated grieving? Are we neglecting to be sufficiently grateful, properly organized and resolutely social? But we can be all those things and still be sad. Failing to acknowledge our sadness, to give it a voice, just buries it like a splinter prone to infection.

I’ve often thought that as we process our losses, we mutate. For me, part of the mutation is accepting that I’ve become someone who’s unbearably sad sometimes.

George is gone, but he’s also a part of me. When I wave an irritatingly slow driver ahead of me so they can change lanes easily, that’s George. He was a fast, but unfailingly polite, driver. When I pay for services I could get cheaper elsewhere but I’ve known the people who help me for years, that’s George. He was loyal and generous. When I told his parents I loved them, that was me and George wanting them to feel like they still had family.

And when I miss him unbearably that’s George too, coming back to me. We can deflect our grief for awhile, but sometimes we need to accept it and just be with it. If you’ve been feeling especially sad lately, it might be the weather or the political climate or the way people are treating each other in this political climate, but it might just be rolling sadness. Our loss has come back again to the forefront of our minds.

If we feel unbearably sad, let’s just admit it without shame.

Judging ourselves for our sadness does no good. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way. We can prop ourselves up only for so long before the sadness demands attention. She’s a draining friend, but if we can sit with her, she’ll feel seen and understood. She’ll even be happy for us that we feel better and can get on to other things, but maybe not just yet.

So, let’s admit it: right now I am truly sad . But I won’t feel this way forever. And I can acknowledge those feelings as a part of loss without having to make excuses. Now, pizza or carrot cake?

Do you ever feel the need to just sit with your loss? Does it help or just make you feel worse?

This post originally appeared on my blog, the Hungover Widow.

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