Categories: LossParenting

Meeting Sadness: Parenting Lessons From Inside Out

Usually when I go to the movies, I come home with stuff. Normally, it’s mostly popcorn kernels stuck in my bra. This most recent time at the theatre, I came home with a lot more.

I’m a problem solver. I wrap a lot of my mommy identity up in my behind the scenes work to make my child’s life easier. Like the Wizard of Oz, but with goldfish crackers, “Pay no attention to that Mom behind the curtain!” I kiss booboos. I arrange our schedule to be free of conflict. I try to keep things harmonious and stress free. I don’t want my child to feel sadness.

I learned recently, I can’t kiss every booboo. It’s impossible. We lost my grandpa and the process of losing him was a careful balance of age appropriate information timed to minimize discomfort and surprise. I didn’t want him to feel sadness or be caught off guard clutching false hope. What could sadness possibly accomplish? I watched, with my insides eviscerated, as my child went through the grieving process.

It was excruciating to see him overwhelmed with sadness. He went on vacation with his dad and was distracted, but came home and reality hit again. It hit us both, to be honest. I distracted myself in his absence and made little time to sit with sadness. A few weeks later, we went to the movies and saw Inside Out and our perspectives changed.

Joy was a lot like me: trying to save Riley from experiencing Sadness, going to impossible lengths to prevent discomfort at tremendous personal cost. Joy didn’t see the value of Sadness either. I get Joy completely but in the darkness, we found understanding watching an animated representation of our inner lives.

We learned to see Sadness in a different light. We saw how Sadness brought people together. We saw how sitting with Sadness for a little while makes you feel better and lets you get through things. We saw that you can get through sadness and be okay.

I talked to my son about it after and asked him how he felt. He said “It made me feel good to know that Sadness is doing it’s job.” I asked him what he thought Sadness’ job was. He smiled thoughtfully.

“Helping me move on.”

As usual, I came home with popcorn kernels stuck in my bra, but I came home with a lot more. I came home with Joy and Sadness, and a greater appreciation of both. Joy shouldn’t come at such a great personal cost, and Sadness helps us move on if you just sit with it.

Alison Tedford :

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