In the animation comedy Inside Out, the character, Joy, could not understand the need for Sadness to...  

... exist. This was also a question my nine year old child with special needs asked me after watching the cartoon.

Why indeed.

In the last ten years of my adult life, I have been a parent to a child with exceptional needs. Sadness plays a large part of my journey, often making its appearance now and then when you least expect it.

And it is very crippling when it visits me. For days, weeks, even months, it can push me into depths of inertia, rendering me almost useless to my child, family and environment for a period of time until it suddenly decides to leave for a vacation.

Vacation. Ahhh.... what was important about the occasional visits by Sadness, was the peace it brings with it when it starts to leave. It seems like encountering sadness is a necessary phase before we can encounter peace.

The trouble is, I learnt that Sadness doesn't really leave. It just hides somewhere till the right moment or trigger invites it back for a party.

This is probably what experts term as the repeated grief cycle. So what can we do when we chronically feel sad?

Let me share some of my personal insights to this:

 

  • It is ok to be sad.

    Acknowledge that you are only human. Let the tears flow if you have to and don't hold back.

  • It is not ok to do nothing about the sadness...

    ...and indulge in it perversely till it becomes damaging to your daily activities.

  • Live bravely.

    Recognise that sadness is an emotion, but it is not an excuse to give up living bravely.

  • Decide to move on and find joy in whatever little you have.

    Recognise that all you need to stay as productive to self and family while feeling sad, is a conscious decision to move on and find joy in whatever little you have.

  • Find one simple, safe, reliable outlet...

    ...to distract yourself from sadness whenever you need. For example, going out for a walk, doing push-ups at home, crochet ferociously, playing an instrument, cooking, reading scriptures, swimming, putting on makeup (yeah, who says you can't do housework looking like a babe?).

  • Speak to someone...

    ...you respect, is a good listener, and who doesn't reinforce your depressed self in anyway (e.g. Doesn't judge, doesn't add oil to your negativity).

  • Decide a date for sadness to pack up and leave for a vacation.

    Yes, it's up to you.

  • Put on a service hat.

    When you see yourself as a means to serve a larger cause (e.g. In loving and helping your child, making an important difference in someone’s life, volunteer at a charity with your child etc), it is easier for sadness to vacate and bring joy and peace over.

  • Know your limits.

    Take a necessary break whenever you need to, even if it means disappearing into the toilet and having some quiet time there.

  • Accept help from anyone willing to help.

As I look at my child every day, I continuously push myself to learn to accept all the imperfections that come with life. As much as each day can be a disappointment, it can also be a thanksgiving that at least, for today, she remained happy - and that makes me happy.

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Credit: A video by Channel 5

Credit: A video by Trixie Chua & Celine Kim for Special Seeds Singapore.

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