What I’ve Learned: Sadness isn’t the Opposite of Happiness

Michelle Lewsen

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What Ive learned sadness isn't the opposite of happiness by Michelle Lewsen

This past week has been a tough one. A few of my friends have gone through traumatic experiences and my Little Man has been suffering some horrible bouts of anxiety that caused him to feel terribly sad. Through supporting him, being there for my friends and trying to make it all okay, I’ve been forced to ponder: What is happiness? How is it possible to be happy, while experiencing all this sadness? 

I’ve come to a new understanding and I’d like to share.

Happiness and sadness do not have to exist exclusive of one another.

As I sat with my friend who was suffering through a devastating loss and helped her to pick up the pieces of her broken heart, I tried to make sense of what it all means. Why do we have to suffer? How do we pick up and carry on? How do we find happiness again?

We talked and drank coffee and cried. I told her I didn’t know how to make it right but that I would stand there with her in her sadness and share it. She told me that was enough. We spoke about how we are both so grateful for each others’ friendship and that knowing that even in your saddest times, there is no ‘alone’ and that is surely something to be happy about.

That’s when it occurred to me.

Gratitude is everything. Gratitude is the main ingredient for happiness. It’s the spotlight that shines on all that we have to be happy about and, in fact, shows us the path to happiness. With gratitude we have the ability to build an unbreakable vessel to contain all our experiences. This means that even in our saddest times, that sadness can be safely contained in a vessel made from happiness.

It gives us context. Yes, this horrible thing we’re experiencing right now might be bitter and we may have no choice but to drink it, but the vessel we are drinking from is one made of solid happiness. While we may be suffering, we can simultaneously be acutely aware of all the wonder in our lives.

As I sat, a day later, with my little boy on my lap, sobbing because his anxiety had got the better of him, I felt so desperately sad. Even so, I was also able to contain that sadness in a beautiful vessel formed with gratitude for his good health, the fact that Darren and I are a formidable team and that we have the ability to help him. I felt the love that infuses our family and the knowledge that this too shall pass.

What a revelation – sadness and happiness can co-exist. In fact, if we allow our happiness to tightly hold our sadness, we allow ourselves to experience that pain in a way that doesn’t feel quite so devastating.

So, today I’m feeling gratitude for the sadness of this past week. I’m thankful that I was able to be there to support my friend, that she trusted me to be the one to confide in and that, that by simply being there, I somehow helped. I feel grateful for the introspection I’ve been forced into and the resulting discovery that sadness isn’t the opposite of happiness after all.

What Ive learned sadness isn't the opposite of happiness quote

What are you grateful for?


Michelle - small headshotABOUT MICHELLE: Michelle Lewsen is Editor at Bonbon Break. She has 18 years’ experience in the advertising industry and multiple International Writing awards under her belt. In 2013, she was thrilled to be selected as a BlogHer Voice of the Year in the “Inspiration” category. She is  also the founder of theycallmemummy.com – a website for women (parents and non-parents, alike) covering a wide range of topics from parenting to work-life balance to mental health and fitness. Most importantly, Michelle is mum to three of the most beautiful human beings she has ever met.

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This post was written by Michelle Lewsen exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC