The Shame of Sadness

It starts really early;
this obsession with shaming people’s sadness.
“Don’t cry, or I’ll really give you something to cry about!”,
a parent says to their child.
“Real men don’t cry”,
many young boys are lied to.
“Never let them see your tears. It makes you look weak”,
women are told in the workforce.

And when someone dies,
Religions will offer up this gem:
“Do not grieve, for when you grieve,
you are not allowing their soul to be at peace.”

Doctors and experts and therapists,
will try to put you on meds,
or “diagnose” your sadness,
calling it “depression”,
or “complicated grief”,
as if death and loss and grief
could be anything but,
Complicated.

And then,
There is this other gem:
Something,
some group of “experts”,
who have probably never lost their soulmates,
or had their world come crashing down
in a matter of seconds,
something called
“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders”,
has decided
that after six months,
six months,
your grief
my grief
our grief
becomes “complicated grief”
and that we are now not just grieving,
and sad,
and people who have to rebuild their world
from nothing
and start over,
We are “depressed”
We are “mentally ill”.
These people,
these unknown faces,
want to label grief
after 6 months,
as a mental illness.
At six months,
I hadnt even BEGUN
the hard, hard work
of processing
what the hell had just happened
to my life.

Friends and family and outsiders,
will put timelines on your pain,
and their sympathies end,
long before your grief will.
Because grief doesn’t end.
It only Shifts.
Changes.
Moves.

But the people of the world scream
Suppress! Deny! Ignore!
Don’t feel!
Push away!
This seems to be the message,
coming at us from society,
from elders,
from the mental-health industry,
from doctors,
from friends,
from every single corner,
of the world,
in which we live.

“Don’t be sad. He wouldn’t want you to be sad”,
they say with good intentions.
“Aren’t you over this yet? It’s been a year,”
they cluelessly judge.
“Happiness is a choice. You need to decide to be happy”,
they offer condescendingly.

They just don’t know,
until, of course,
they know.
And the shaming goes on …

In the first few hours and days and weeks and months after my husband’s sudden death,
just 2 years and 3 months ago,
I was a swirling tornado, surrounded by a cloudy grey sky.
I had never lost the very person, who was my whole world,
until, of course,
I did.

And so I didn’t know how to feel, or mourn, or be.
Every breath I took felt entirely different,
than the air I had breathed before.
I could not see in front of me, could not find my way.
There was crying,
yes.
In the beginning.
But the crying, the sobbing, the hysterical fits of emotion,
they flooded out of me like a wail,
like an animal,
making terrifying sounds, I had never heard before,
coming from myself.
These sounds, were the sounds
of a human being
in Shock
because her husband
was Here,
and then Gone.
Just Gone.

So while I cried, in those first few hours, and days, and weeks, and months –
they were not the cries of sadness.
Not yet.
I wasn’t ready for that.
They were the cries of
Why did this happen?
and panic
and chaos
and unbelievable
horrible
crippling
FEAR.
Because like C.S. Lewis wrote,
so truthfully,
so candidly,
“Noone ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

In the beginning, you just don’t know,
and so everything,
Everything
is terrifying.
You are frightened of today,
tomorrow,
the next hour,
the next breath.
You are frightened of
your own emotions,
because you have never, ever
felt anything
with this much intensity
again and again
and again.
You start to think,
in the beginning,
that the pain will
literally
definitely
kill you.
That you will just collapse
on the floor
Alone,
like he did,
on that day that he died,
because how can someone,
one person
feel that much pain,
and not die?

After the first year or twelve or fourteen or sixteen months
of my husband’s sudden Death,
the tornado became more of a windstorm,
and the fog lifted,
just enough for me to see,
enough to find my way.
And so there was more crying,
Yes.
But they still were not the cries of sadness.
Not yet.
They were pushed down tears
stuffed away feelings
held inside,
so as not to make others
uncomfortable.
They were sobs of hurt,
seeping out in a closet,
or a bathroom,
in my car.
Running away from social events,
Leaving the party early,
Crying like a criminal,
filled with guilt
and Shame.

And so,
sometime around the two-year mark or a few months later
or today,
Right now,
Lately,
the tornado that was a windstorm,
has become something else.
Something that allows me to see,
Finally,
for the first time
since he died,
Since I died,
the Color in the leaves,
on the trees,
in my favorite season
of Autumn.

And there is crying,
Yes.
Lots and lots of crying.
Crying in the streets,
on the stairway,
in counseling,
with friends,
By myself,
On a bus,
at a show,
In my life.
Crying,
Finally,
because I miss him.
I just miss him.
I miss him with so much
Force
and Intensity,
that I just cry
and cry
and cry.

But my sadness
is finally not filled with fear,
or consumed with Shame.
It is just
Sadness.

And now, the outside world,
and the people in it,
want to label me and judge me
for this sadness,
as if to say:
“It’s been over 2 years. You’re
still sad?”
No.
Not still.
Finally.

I have finally reached the kind of sadness,
that is truly about sadness.
Pure, raw sadness.
The kind that only comes
from deep, deep love.
So every time I cry,
more pain is released,
and this leaves a corner
of my Sky
Open.
for Joy.
for Happy.
for Life.

I have never felt more sad,
about the death of my husband,
than I feel right now.
Today.
In this breath.
And yet,
because of that sadness,
I have never been more convinced,
or confident,
that I am on the path to Healing.

So why?
Why is the world so fiercely afraid,
of Sadness?
Why does my sadness make people run
and hide
and Judge
ordering me,
demanding me,
repremanding me,
to “Be Happy”
and pushing my sadness away.
Is it really so difficult
so hard
to understand
to comprehend
that darkness brings in light,
that Evil brings out Love,
that sadness is the freeway to Joy?

I have never been more Sad
than Now.
Never cried more often.
Never felt the pain
quite like this.
But it’s different.
Because that’s what grief is.
Not better.
Different.
And every time
that I cry
and cry
and cry,
it is not a bad thing.
It is not a negative thing.
It is not a Shameful thing.
It is not something that needs “fixing.”

Can’t you see
the Validity
the Beauty
the Neverending,
Honoring,
Loving
Gift
that is
Sadness?

I see it.
I see it,
and it looks like
Healing.

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28 thoughts on “The Shame of Sadness

  1. Kelley….PERFECTLY said! It’s almost as if you jumped in my head and said exactly how I feel. Thank you for speaking for ALL of us! xoxo

  2. I thought this was just beautifully written. We have watched you go through these stages of grief and know that you are on the path of healing .. The best part is that “you” feel that you are on that path as well..carry on my dear Kelley..carry on.

  3. You have described me better than I was able to. It has been 3 years since my husband’s sudden death and I am healing, but boy do I miss him incredibly, deeply miss him. Thanks for sharing this and giving voice to my journey.

  4. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt everyday. It is a deep never ending sadness knowing that life will never again be as it once was. Its been a little over two years and I miss him more each day. I find myself crying more these days than I have in a long time.Ive become comfortable with my companion sadness, I can only hope that someday it too leaves me suddenly. Peace to you always Kelley

    • Not only did Kelley say it so perfectly, you have read my mind ( and broken heart) as well. Thank You! It has been just over 3.months for me. I don’ t want to heal, I just eant him back.

  5. You have said it all, for all of us widows and I thank you for shining the light so brightly on this topic. I really can relate to the CS Lewis quote, “no one told me that grief would feel so like fear”. Thank you, thank you. Namaste.

  6. I just passed the 4 year mark after losing my husband and both parents all in 4 months. I still cry each and every day and am not ashamed of it. Thank you for writing this and sharing your heart.

  7. I’ve been doing an awful lot of crying lately and was so struck by this post – how incredibly liberating to identify it as healing … I’m so happy to see you keep moving forward and so grateful for you sharing your journey with the rest of us.

  8. Kelley, I can’t imagine that you have any idea how talented you are. You move people, you change people. It is absolutely amazing. I wish you every happiness. It was my twin brother that found your letter in the bottle. There was a reason.

  9. Thank You Kelley for reminding me I have the right to grieve shamelessly, publicly, and freely without restraint. Blessings to you!

  10. Just now reading this and didn’t want to not respond. It’s beautiful, just like all your writing. So happy that the healing has begun.

  11. SO beautiful. So powerful. You painted the picture so well of what those early months feel like, clear enough i think for even non-widows to begin to understand a little bit. Well done!

  12. Kelley, you write and express your thoughts, emotions, observations, so beautifully. I read this post back in November and it has stuck with me. I needed to read it again. Finally sad. I get that now. I couldn’t articulate that for myself but that is where I was arriving when I read this for the first time and that is what stuck with me. It is where I am now. I was sliding downhill for a while, resisting the sadness, afraid of it really and now I feel like I can sit with the sadness, at least a little and let it be, let it come out.

    Thank you.

  13. I think this is the first time that I’ve seen it written, as I actually lived it, as it actually was. Incredibly well done. My sweetheart died in 1988 and still I feel the pain, I do so know what you’re writing about. Thank you so much for putting it into words.

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