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Responding to Our Natural Alert Systems: Sadness

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While I was writing the other posts in this vein of thought (Fear, Guilt, and Anger), I kept coming back to the emotion of sadness. I tried to shrug it off over and over again because, honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of this particular feeling. This is probably the emotion that I’m the least in tune with. But I can’t avoid it, so we’re going to dive in!

I don’t do sadness well. Many times when I’m sad, it comes out as anger instead. I struggle to grieve, but I’m learning that it’s a necessary part of the healing process. This quote really stood out to me when I read it earlier today:

“Our sadness is an energy we discharge in order to heal. As we discharge the energy over the losses relating to our basic needs, we can integrate the shock of those losses and adapt to reality. Sadness is painful. We try to avoid it. Actually discharging sadness releases the energy involved in our emotional pain. To hold it in is to freeze the pain within us. The therapeutic slogan is that grieving is the “healing feeling”.” Healing the Shame that Binds You, p.52

Instead of sadness being an acceptable emotion, our society often tells us to suck it up because sadness is awkward and uncomfortable. It is synonymous with weakness. Sadness is inconvenient and can throw a wrench in a person’s perfectly planned day. And yet, sadness is vital to our emotional health and it impacts our relationships with others.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to grieve?

Grieve Our Sins.

Part of Celebrate Recovery is the confession of our sins to God and another human being and grieving is part of that confession process. So often we don’t grieve our sin, just the effects of it. We’re sad because our lying destroyed a relationship, but we’re not grieved over the lying itself. Or we’re distraught because we’ve fallen on hard times again, but we don’t grieve our lack of trust.

This isn’t a fun subject to talk about but it’s healthy for us to grieve those things that grieve God.

Grieve Our Losses.

We’ve all lost things and people along the way: deaths of loved ones, friends moving away, relationships falling apart, dreams never realized, health declining, job losses, and more. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, there’s little to no time “allowed” to grieve some of these things. So we just put on a brave face and soldier on, while a part of us is hurting.

If you were abused as a child, give yourself the space to grieve that loss.
If a loved one was taken from you, grant yourself permission to mourn them.
If you feel like your life was taken from you in some way, sorrow over that.

Grieve Unmet Expectations.

No matter how hard we try, we all have expectations, many of which go unmet. Like when you start a new job and you believe it will fulfill you. Or you start that new relationship and you think they’ll stick around forever. Or you join that new church, thinking that this one will be different. But then the job gets hard, the person moves away, and the church isn’t as perfect as you thoughtwhat do you do then?

Over our lives, we can rack up a lot of expectations, many of which go unmourned.

That perfect family you thought you’d have, but don’t.
The incredible business you thought you’d build that went under.
That thing you were certain you were called to do but never materialized.

My suspicion is that we have a lot of grief that we’ve been carrying around that we just don’t express. There might be pockets of sadness in our hearts and minds that we don’t even know are there. But I wonder what our lives would begin to look like if we employed this healing feeling. I wonder how our families, our jobs, our churches, and our neighborhoods might change if we embrace this natural alert system God has given us.

Let’s create safe spaces where we can grieve our sins, our losses, and our unmet expectations and see how God heals us!

How do you feel about sadness?

When was the last time you allowed yourself to grieve?

To go Deeper: Read Good Grief!, Healing the Shame that Binds You

Disclosure: some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


  1. Wow! Hidden sadness definitely plagued me at times. I find myself sad at times for no reason at all, but so many of these hidden layers that you mentioned here do exist. Unmet expectations can drive my sometimes sadness. I’m just so good at talking myself out of it that sometimes the sadness goes unaddressed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It’s so easy to brush off sadness or dismiss unmet expectations, but those are things that tend to linger with us. It’s so comforting to know that God is big enough to handle our unmet expectations and doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable emotions like sadness.

      Liked by 1 person

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