It seems a bit silly to even have to say this, but when our Loved One is diagnosed with a chronic illness, it can make us feel sad.
It sounds ridiculous. Of course when someone is sick it is going to make us sad. But I genuinely believe it’s not that simple. At least it wasn’t for me. Here’s why.
Why sad is difficult
Sad is not what we expect
I think perhaps it’s rarer than we think to be simply sad. Often we are angry or bitter or frustrated as well as sad. To be simply sad – without being off the walls angry, or stressed, or even without questioning life and existence, is somewhat unique.
The feeling might not last long. It might not have come to you yet.
But when it does, it can be difficult to respond to.
Sad is not an action
It has been said that “Bitterness is a paralytic” (Sherlock, BBC). I think grief is too. How can you respond to being sad, when you know there is nothing you can do to fix the source of your sadness? You cannot just make your Loved One well, and thus trade sadness for happiness. Life does not work like that.
If you are stressed you can put steps in place to relieve it.
If you are angry you can yell or shout or expend energy in some way.
If you are jealous you can recognise it as harmful and try and pray for change.
But if you’re sad, what can you do? It is not wrong to be sad, it is not something to be exorcised or fixed. Of course you can sit down and cry, and sometimes that helps, but at the same time, no one can physically cry forever, not even for the length of their sadness.
Sad sounds like depressed
It’s true. If you tell someone you are sad, they may immediately assume you’re depressed. And with depression comes (hopefully) a bunch of options. There are known strategies for dealing with depression and in some cases there is medicine. Not so with sadness. Not really. Especially not for sadness which is not the result of bereavement.
Yet sadness is not depression. Depression comes in many forms, and I am not going to attempt to explain it entirely. But I believe it is different. Depression is numbness or despair or exhaustion or utter darkness.
Sadness is a bit different.
Sad seems too simple
If someone asks how you’re going and you tell them you are sad… it can sound a bit silly.
Of course you’re sad.
And so it feels easier to say we feel stressed or tired rather than sad. Or if, if we do try and explain our sadness, we often say we are ‘just’ sad.
There is no ‘just’ about it. Sadness is sadness. Perhaps it is a simple emotion, perhaps it is less visible – but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Why sad is dangerous
There is nothing wrong with being sad. It is a valid, proper emotion. But, like everything, it can be dangerous.
Sad can be restrictive
When we have a mixture of emotions, they tend to have a variety of sources. We feel sad over our Loved One’s suffering, frustrated at the doctors, angry at God, jealous of others.
When we are simply sad over the illness, there are less options for relief.
Sad then, can become overwhelming. It can develop into tunnel vision… the sad thing itself envelops our life, there’s no space for other happinesses because this one sad thing cannot be changed into a joy.
In one sense that’s okay.
In another it is not. Because we all need distance sometimes. It is helpful for us all to step back and look at the bigger picture, to understand that not every part of our life is sadness, to go away and return. To listen to different perspectives.
Sad can lead to other emotions
I don’t think any emotion lasts forever, even sadness. Too easily our simple grief collects other components.
We become angry – how dare God let us experience this sadness?
We become frustrated – why won’t any one come and relieve our grief?
We become guilty – how dare we be sad, we need to be happy for our Loved One!
Sad can morph into other emotions, and can even spiral down into utter despair, into a profound disappointment in life, to a hopeless existence.
Sad can lead us to sin
These other emotions that can spring from sadness can lead us into sin. It’s easy in our sadness to lash out at others, to shun help, to criticise or climb up onto the moral high horse – and begin to think we’re better because we are experiencing sadness.
Or perhaps being sad leads us to search for happiness in the wrong places. Instead of turning to God we first turn to others. Or to medical hopes. Or to distractions or entertainments. Anything to make us forget this sadness. Anything to take it away.
Why sad is good
And yet, sadness does not have to destroy
Sad is reality
Let us not lose sight of the fact that in our case as Watchers, particularly at the moment of diagnosis, sad is a valid reaction.
If we didn’t feel sad, if our heart did not break at our Loved One’s suffering, we would have even more cause to worry.
Because we are not stone statues, but living people, created in the likeness of a God who weeps as well as laughs.
Sad is the right response to a sad reality. It is important to know and feel that life is not all happy games and hopes fulfilled.
It is just as equally dark valley and night time tears.
Sad is better
I think although sad is ‘simple’ it is often a superior emotion, if there is such a thing. To be sad, to feel grief, and not (for the moment) react in fury or annoyance or questioning or bargaining, is good.
It’s less likely to lead to sin than these other reactions and more likely to lead to humility and Christ.
Sad can lead to God
Sadness is disillusioning. It is a reminder that this world is broken and hurting. It’s a reminder, more than perhaps anything else, that we need a Saviour.
Nothing on this earth can make us truly happy.
And so sadness is good and helpful when it leads to dependence on the only Person who can make us happy.
What to do about sad
Sad might be helpful at times, but it’s not pleasant. It may not be a good thing. What can we do when we feel sad?
- Admit it – let’s not be afraid to say that we simply feel sad.
- Allow comfort – do not let sad become a selfish, prideful, isolating experience. Do not believe the lie that no one can help you because they cannot take away your sadness. Open yourself up to comfort. Allow people the opportunity to be Christ to you
- Turn to God – let Him redeem your sadness. He might not take it away immediately. We might not feel any relief, but persevere. Keep telling Him about your sadness, your aching heart. Take every opportunity to demonstrate that even in sadness He is your God. He knows what it is to be sad and can alone comfort.
// What is the worst part about sadness? Do you believe it can ever be a good thing?
Come join the conversation and comment below!