When I’m sad I act differently depending on the circumstances and the nature of the sadness. If I had a bad day at work, for example, I might reach out to a friend for support. But, if something extreme happened and I was extremely sad, like a traumatic event, somebody got hurt or (God forbid) died, I would probably not reach out to a friend or loved one right away. The first thing I would experience would likely be shock followed by denial and then sadness. I’d need to get to the point where I was actually sad to figure out what was happening with me internally.
Trauma in particular can bring on intense emotions and confuse us. We may be feeling many emotions, one of which is sadness. Feeling sad after you’ve experienced a traumatic experience is normal. Then, there is (of course) the difference between sadness and depression. Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness that won’t lift for at least two weeks of time. Sadness is transient, but it should still be dealt with rather than repressing it. It’s unhealthy to push sadness down and pretend like it doesn’t exist.
When I’m sad, I sometimes isolate. I want to process those feelings and be by myself. I don’t want to talk to anyone because I don’t necessarily know why I am sad yet. Maybe I’ll journal or cry into a pillow. Sometimes that intense crying into a pillow and having my body fall apart on the bed is just what I need at that moment. It feels great to get that energy out of my body. Once I let it all out, I feel like I can function a little bit better.
There are other times when I’m feeling sad when I would rather not be alone. I love to hug people I’m close to and receive hugs. When I’m feeling down, I want comfort. I want to know that there’s someone out there who cares about me. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Human beings need to be loved. It’s a basic need and I’m not ashamed to ask for what I want. I will even say to a friend “I need a hug.” My good friends will always give me the hug that I ask for. They know that if the roles were reversed I would do the same for them.
People respond to sadness in different ways. They may isolate or they want to be around people who understand them in order to seek comfort. There’s no right or wrong way to handle sadness. It’s about acknowledging that sadness as real and knowing that it will pass given time. It’s also helpful to discuss these feelings in therapy, especially if they worsen or seem like they are turning into depression.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re feeling sad and you can’t seem to shake it. You don’t have to go through it on your own. Many of us have struggled with sadness and we understand.