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Daily reporting of sadness can be found online, on television, and in the newspapers. A recent story of loss: actress, Brittany Murphy was found dead, at the age of 32, from a massive heart attack. It is always a shock when an apparently healthy young person suddenly dies. In this case, how could this story, of a talented and beautiful person, not touch the hearts of many?
What is Sadness?
Sadness is a part of life and a normal response to situations or events that result differently than imagined (disappointment). Although disappointment is often the main trigger for sadness, other things can trigger the emotion as well. It can occur after experiencing a loss, or in response to someone else’s sadness.
Since sadness is a commonly experienced emotion, it can often be triggered just by trying to comfort someone else who is feeling sad. For example, while comforting a friend who just broke up with her boyfriend, Camille starts to feel sad while recalling her last break-up.
Empathy is the Ability to Understand
Empathy is all about understanding how someone is feeling. In order to understand those feelings one must have experienced a very similar event. For example, a woman having experienced a miscarriage would be in a position to demonstrate empathy towards a friend who just experienced the loss of a baby. Empathy is a wonderful way to show emotional support and encouragement to someone who is suffering.
However, it is important to realize that not everyone experiences feelings in the same manner. When two or more individuals experience a similar event, empathy may open the door to dialog, but do not expect identical reactions. Although the events are similar, the reactions may be extremely different. For example, two women experience the death of a loved one, one-woman falls into a deep depression, while the other is seeking the help of a grief counselor.
It is so easy to be drawn into someone else’s pain, hence, remember to create boundaries. This is always a concern in the helping professions, as exposure to these strong emotions can cause inner turmoil for the helper. For example, a social worker helping a victim of domestic violence might find herself internalizing some of her clients’ pain because she too was a victim of violence.
How to Handle Sadness
Sadness often triggers pensiveness, a need to think about the cause, and to put the issue into perspective. This can best be done with the assistance of a counselor. Talk therapy is sometimes all that is needed to help in the healthy expression (rather than suppression) of feelings. In addition, maintaining a journal is also a helpful way to cope; it provides an opportunity to revisit the writings later.
Learning to cope with sadness is important as it provides an expressive outlet for the feelings. For many, the first sign of sadness may come in the form of crying, a coping mechanism that is often surrounded by negativity. Crying is actually a healthy response and should be expressed and not suppressed. However, if crying episodes are followed by immobilizing feelings, then the problem could be depression, a serious medical condition.
Sadness is Not Depression
Normal episodes of sadness usually resolve themselves rather quickly; however, feelings that linger or evolve into more intense feelings could point to depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association (Psych.org), depression is a serious condition that often requires medication and medical intervention. Sadness at this point becomes one of the many symptoms of the condition. There are different levels of depression with each treated according to the cause of the disorder.
In conclusion, everyone experiences episodes of sadness, as it is a part of life. Although not normally a concern, sadness usually resolves itself within a few days. It is important to provide emotional support and encouragement during these times to help create a loving and supportive environment. However, if the feelings do not begin to resolve or is followed by additional duress, then depression could be the cause.