We feel sad when we receive bad news. We feel sad after watching a sappy movie. We might even be sad for the most trivial of matters you can think of: a burnt toast, ice cream dropped on the floor, spilled coffee on your shirt or anything that is associated with loss.
But sometimes, there is a kind of sadness that you can’t even articulate and no matter how many times you try to explain to other people – they will never understand.
Strength is not measured by how happy you are as a person.
You’re not sure if you are depressed, sad, or going through a grieving period. Or all of it at the same time. Maybe you’re numbing your feelings because you were taught to “take a grip on yourself or you will lose in life”.
Whenever we feel sad, it’s almost instinctive to try to get out of it; we would try to find happiness or blessings behind every tragic loss that we might have had experienced in the past. Some might even feel guilty for being sad for the fear of being ungrateful for God’s blessings – that everyone who has a strong faith should remain patient and not be sad in whatever circumstances. We’re so ashamed of crying in front of other people – even those closest to us – that it is becoming a stigma; crying is only for the weak. That lump in the throat when we hold back our tears just seems like a more “rational” thing to do than letting it all out. We restrain ourselves from crying because we need to be “strong”.
But, let me break it to you: it’s OK to be sad. And cry.
Strength is not measured by how happy you are as a person. The truth is: I don’t even know what it means to be strong. What I know is that being sad doesn’t make you less of a strong person; it just makes you brave enough to be vulnerable and show emotions when it is sometimes seen as a stigma. We are not being ungrateful if we are sad. We are not being slaves to our emotions; we are just healing and it is an imperative part of the grieving process.
After years of coping with an unforeseen loss, I stopped being numb and dealt with my grief. I’ve realised that the more I express my feelings, the easier it has become. When I’d stopped trying too hard to be happy and embraced my sadness, for some reason I felt free. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to stop doing anything while being sad; I just need to let the feeling flow and I’m all good.
If the great Prophets in the past who lost someone dear to them could be sad – some were even sad for many years – we too should be able to embrace sadness as it is. Allah created us with emotions; our emotions are gifts that He allowed us to feel. The verses in the Quran that we usually encounter when it comes to sadness is associated with His Mercy.
“For indeed, with hardship (will be) ease. Indeed, with hardship (will be) ease” – [Ash-Sharh: 5-6]
The important thing to remember when dealing with other people’s sadness or grief is that we don’t need to fix their problem. We might not agree with someone’s emotional experience but it doesn’t take a penny to be respectful about what’s bothering them, especially when they have entrusted us with their problems. All we need to provide are a pair of ears, devoted attention, a box of tissue and care.
To all those who have hidden that unsettling feeling in yourself: let it all out. Sometimes, all we need is a good cry. It doesn’t matter if the problem was years ago; it’s time to deal with it so you can finally move on. Numbing your feelings will not get you anywhere – we’ve all done it at some point in our lives and felt like we were stuck in a rut. It’s about time you own your feeling and lift that weight that has been burdening you for years.