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Understanding and Processing Sadness

Updated: Mar 13

Like all other emotions, when we are feeling sad, there is often an expectation that was not met (I wanted something to happen that didn't happen OR something happened that I didn't want to happen) and a sense of powerlessness (I have no control over this situation). Along with these elements, there is also the feeling of loss...typically over something that is very important to us.

Also like any other emotion, sadness is not "bad"or "negative" even though it certainly feels that way.

Emotions are indicators and sadness indicates what is important to us. If it wasn't important, we wouldn't be sad that we lost it. The degree that we feel sadness can vary and is typically based on the level of importance that we have assigned for that which we have lost.


Moderate Degree = SADNESS

Maximum Degree = SORROW or ANGUISH

While our sadness can be caused by the actual physical loss of someone or something that is important to us, many times sadness is not caused by an actual event but by the feelings that the event elicits within us.

When we do lose something or someone that is extremely important to us such as is the case when we lose a loved one to death or a divorce, we experience the most intense sensation of sadness which is grief.

Grief, while in the same family as sadness, contains its own unique layers of feelings and emotions and requires its own unique process which is why I will cover this subject in another article. In this article, I will focus on sadness that is brought on by an experience that triggers our feelings of a sense of loss, unmet expectations and powerlessness. Some of the most common triggers of sadness are:

  • Being Disappointed by an Unexpected Outcome

    • Not getting a job that you expected to get.

  • Feeling Rejected

    • Having someone you are interested in not be interested in you.

  • Endings and Goodbyes

    • Having a close friend move away.

  • Loss of Identity

    • Transitioning to a new home or job.

  • Being Abandoned

    • Having a friend or partner leave or break up with you.

  • Meaning That We Assign to Conflict or Difficult Situations

    • My partner got angry with me and it means they don't love me anymore.

    • My business is failing and it means that I am not good enough.

Before I get in to the steps for processing your sadness, I think it is important to point out that sometimes, there is no processing to do. Sadness is an emotion that we often times just need to feel, there aren't any "steps" we need to take to overcome it, we just need to sit with the uncomfortable feelings and deeply experience them.

It is often the emotions that accompany sadness that need to be further processed such as anger and fear. If you need help processing these emotions, you can visit the articles below.

If your sadness is caused by a specific conflict with another person, you may also want to read my article on resolving conflict which covers sadness along with the other emotions often involved when we are in conflict with another person.







equals SADNESS

The first step to processing our sadness is to feel it without judgement. Sometimes we are sad about something that may seem trivial to others and maybe even to ourselves. Remember that there are no "bad" emotions and no matter how trivial it may seem, your sadness is valid simply due to the fact that you are feeling it.

Below are a few prompts to help you to experience and move through your sadness.

  • I am so sad because...

  • It’s ok to feel sad about this situation because…

  • I want to move through my sadness but first I need to…

  • The things that I can do right now to help experience and move through my sadness are...

Because there are several different factors or situations that can make us feel sad, I have included several prompts below to help you process your feelings.

I have included examples for each of the prompts below. I have also included a PDF worksheet below this post that can be printed out and used to complete this process.

If you suspect that any of the statements below may be true for you, I want you to finish the sentences below that statement. If you aren’t sure...going through each one may help you to determine whether it is true for you or not.

  • You had a strong desire or need for something that wasn’t fulfilled.

    • What I really wanted to happen in this situation was…

    • The need or desire I was trying to fulfil was…

    • Some other ways I could fulfil this need or desire are...


  • What I really wanted to happen in this situation was to have the man I was interested in be interested back.

  • The need or desire I was trying to fulfil was the need for connection and to be loved by someone.

  • Some other ways I could fulfil this need or desire are to continue to meet new men who may be interested in pursuing a relationship with me and to reach out to friends and family for support and connection.

  • You believe that the negative story you are telling about yourself in regards to a particular conflict or situation is true.

    • Because this situation happened it means that I am…

    • And if this is true, it means…

    • The evidence I have to support this NOT being true is…


  • Because this situation happened it means that I am not worthy or deserving of love.

  • And if this is true, it means that I will be alone and sad forever.

  • The evidence I have to support this NOT being true is that I have a lot of friends who love and support me.

  • You have expectations from certain people that they should fulfil your wants and needs and they have let you down.

    • I expect that this person should…

    • I expect this because…

    • This may be an unrealistic expectation because…


  • I expect that this person should always be there for me.

  • I expect this because I am always there for them.

  • This may be an unrealistic expectation because I understand that while I am important in their life, I am not their whole life and I can't expect this person to meet all of my needs all of the time.

  • The situation is triggering you because it is reminding you of something.

    • This situation makes me so sad because it reminds me of...

    • Another time I felt this way was…


  • This situation makes me so sad because it reminds me of when my dad left us.

  • Another time I felt this way was when my boyfriend broke up with me.

  • You believe that because of your loss, you are losing a part of yourself or your identity.

    • Because this happened it means that I am no longer...

    • If this is true then it means that...

    • The evidence I have to support this NOT being true is...


  • Because this happened it means that I am no longer a business owner.

  • If this is true then it means that I am a failure.

  • The evidence I have to support this NOT being true is that I have been successful in many different ventures and I can use this experience to build a stronger and more successful business moving forward.

  • If you have a hard time accessing or expressing your sadness, it is likely that you were raised in a home where you were taught that being sad or expressing sadness was not ok. If this is the case, it is important to recognize and understand this so that you can move through your sadness in a healthy way.

    • In my house, when I got sad...

    • Sad people are…

    • When I’m sad I feel like I am…


  • In my house, when I got sad my mom would get angry with me and tell me that I was being too sensitive.

  • Sad people are weak.

  • When I'm sad I feel like I am weak, stupid and helpless.

Before I end this article, I feel like it is important to point out the distinction between sadness and depression. While sadness can last for long periods of time and often come in waves, it is typically brought on by a situation or circumstance OR brought on or triggered by a past situation, circumstance or story we are telling ourselves about ourselves or the world. Depression, on the other hand, is a serious psychological condition that includes recurrent, persistent, and intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness that interfere with daily living.

If you feel as though you may be suffering from depression, please seek help or visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National for guidance:

If you have found this article during a time in which you are suffering and feeling a sense of loss and sadness in your life, please know that my heart is with you and that you are not alone.

I hope that you have found some comfort and guidance in this article to help you move through your sadness so that you can begin to come to a place of healing and peace in your life!







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