October 3, 2016

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If you and I wish to experience life fully, our hearts require that we be willing to feel sadness. Sadness is the feeling that speaks to how much we value what is missed, what is gone, and what is lost. It also speaks of how deeply we value what we love, what we have, and what we live.

Sadness is proportional—the more sadness we feel after a loss, the more we value what is lost. The more we live an openhearted life of fullness, the more we lose. Sadness gives us the gift of valuing and honoring life.

One of the gifts of sadness is that it is the first step toward healing from loss. Sadness speaks directly to our need to grieve for what is gone. If we grieve genuinely, we eventually come to accept life on life’s terms. Through grief, we find comfort and deeper wisdom as we move about in life in the absence of who or what was lost. From that acceptance we find healing.

Sadness is fundamental to full life because it opens the door to healing.

Sadness is fundamental to full life because it opens the door to healing. Everyone loses; and everyone is in need of healing to live again. However, if we can’t acknowledge how much what we have lost means to us, then sadness will deepen. It goes more inward instead of flowing outward towards others and God.

The need to honor our losses with grief doesn’t go away, no matter what we are taught otherwise. Many of us have heard that we need to disregard our losses and dismiss the pain of our hearts. People say, “It is what it is”, or “Be strong”, or “That’s water under the bridge.” In my own recovery of heart, I got off the bridge and walked along the riverbank to a bend in the river. I could hardly grasp what I found. All that water from all those years that I had thought—and had been taught—flowed into the ocean or evaporated, had collected into a reservoir held back by a dam. Only so much water can flow under that bridge before the dam will crack and break from the strain of holding it in. The danger isn’t in releasing the water—the danger is in never releasing the water.

The danger isn’t in releasing the water—the danger is in never releasing the water.

The heart’s sadness is the same way. Either we value life’s course by facing and feeling the losses we have experienced, or they will eventually burst open and deal with us as consequences of our defenses against grief. If we dare listen to our sadness and value the losses it declares, we will awaken to the restoring power of grief. Grief, in turn, leads us, often slowly, to acceptance. Acceptance brings us to the place of letting us value again, honor again, live again, and love again. Sadness isn’t a weakness. It is a great strength, a great gift we have been given to live fully and love deeply.