I'm going to start a new series entitled Hard Places and Feelings. Every other Thursday I will look at a different feeling or struggle that kids from Hard Places face. I recently have been bombarded with how "normal" our "unnormal" has become. I make a matter of fact statement about a tough feeling our kiddo is experiencing and the reply is shock. However, I've also become very aware that the way I deal with my feelings and emotions is not always much better then the way my kids do. However, my kids are feeling their feelings more often, more severely, and much quicker then I am.
What does sadness look like?
Sadness is a feeling that kids from hard places feel a lot. It is probably my kids number 1 feeling. However, it is often the last feeling they will show. They hate the feeling of sadness. It overwhelms them and they suddenly feel out of control. Control is something kids from hard places desperately need to feel. There were too many things in their lives they couldn't control. (Control itself is really a topic for another day).
Instead of sadness we see so many other feelings: disobedience, anger, control, extreme hyberness, goofiness. Sometimes these emotions come out at really odd times and the feelings seem to be really inappropriate (ie laughing when someone gets hurt). Many times other emotions are used to mask sadness and often looks nothing like sadness.
How do we uncover sadness?
We have found that it takes us a long time to get to the root of our kiddo's feelings when sadness is involved. Typically they revert back to the feeling they are showing and want to feel rather then the feeling they are actually feeling. When a person feels another feeling such as anger, it is typically someone elses problem to deal with (ie the person and thing they are angry at). However, when a person feels sadness that is problem they must deal with inside their own hearts. It takes a lot of more work to deal with sadness.
After 2 1/2 years with our kids we are getting much better at knowing when they are truely sad and not truely angry. But it is still a lot of work. Sometimes we are able to say, "you say your angry but what your telling me sounds very sad." It is a huge victory when our kids are able to get directly to "I feel sad." Sometimes it takes days and weeks to get to the root, other times it doesn't happen at all. No matter how long it takes, we typically don't see an improvement in behavior until the true emotion is reached.
How does this relate to me?
I have discovered that as an adult, sad is still hard to feel. It's gut wrenching. Recently, something tragic happened in our extended family, stop you in your tracks and change your whole life, tragic. As Tony walked out of the house to be with family members and I put the kids in front of a movie I chose to do one thing--housework. I needed, at least temporarily, to not focus on sad. I felt like if I did the emotion would sweep me over and carry me away.
Our kids need to see us sad. They need to see us cry. They need to hear why we're sad. They need to see us holding each other or journaling when we feel this way in order to model healthy coping skills. They need to hear, "I felt so sad when my flowers died because they weren't watered enough." And if we mask our feelings, they need to see us come back and explain to them what really happened ("I acted really angry when I saw you broke my plate and I yelled at you. Really I was sad because that was my favorite plate.") As we show our kids that sad can be felt in a good way they will feel more safe to feel it themselves.