We live in an age when most reality TV shows climax in a tearful finale. But feeling sad – genuinely sad – is still taboo. Yet, sadness happens to us all, sometimes in heartbreakingly awful ways. If we don’t know how to be sad, it can be isolating for those experiencing it and baffling for those trying to help loved ones through dark times.
Today, most of us know intellectually that ‘sad’ is normal. But we’re not always brilliant at allowing for it, in practice. Sadness is going to happen, so we might as well know how to ‘do it’ right. And it’s time to start facing our problems and talking about them. Positive psychology may have become more accepted in mainstream culture, but rates of depression have continued to rise.
We’re trying so hard to be happy. But studies show that we could all benefit from learning the art of sadness and how to handle it well.
Hi and welcome to my review of How to Be Sad!
Truth be told, I really started to appreciate and enjoy non-fiction last year but ordinarily this one would seem too much of a self-help book for my tastes, had it not been for Nicki @ the Secret Library who reviewed the audiobook last year and loved it tremendously (ICYMI).
At a time when my convalescence from COVID wasn’t going well at all and I felt terribly sad, I decided that learning how to be sad better might not be the worst idea.
How to Be Sad is the personal story of the author, who went through quite a lot and tells the reader about her life in a no-nonsense and rather funny manner. It also includes opinions from professionals and it talks about mental health in general. The audiobook is narrated by the author and she does a great job of it!
Sadness is a difficult emotion for many of us. It doesn’t fit in with our ongoing conscious or unconscious pursuit of happiness. From early childhood we are told that there’s no need to cry, we are told to suck it up, to get on with things, to fake it until we make it, but that hardly ever works. I feel a bit silly that it took this book to make me realise that.
A few years ago, I was drowning in sadness. I had been given the diagnosis of MS and while it was a relief to finally know what was wrong with me, it also felt like a cruel punishment of sorts, especially because I felt extreme fatigue for the longest time and I had to drag myself through the days. I went to see a psychologist who told me I shouldn’t give in to these feelings of sadness, I should try and take my mind off things, distract myself in order to feel better. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do for years now, and usually it doesn’t work, which feels like a failure, which makes me feel worse.
Along comes Helen Russell who did the research, explored her own feelings of sadness and those of others, talked to health care professionals and states the exact opposite: you can’t get rid of your sadness by pushing it down, you must accept it, work through it, it’s as valid an emotion as happiness. That doesn’t mean you should wallow in it and do nothing. Be kind to yourself, try to exercise, venture into nature, find yourself a sadness buddy with whom you can talk about your sadness, someone who helps you through it (and vice versa), but accept that this is how you feel and although it sucks, it’s okay to feel this way. It seems obvious, but it wasn’t for me.
How to Be Sad is truly an amazing book. Through her own personal experience, the author makes the reader consider what might or might not work for themselves but because of the way in which it’s told, it’s also an entertaining type of memoir. Highly recommended.