Many love stories start with a glance that leads to a racing heart and a series of events that may or may not be much fun, but eventually end in the lovers getting married. Hardly do we get to see what happens after the couple start living together, instead we settle for a vague “and they lived happily ever after.” If only life were that simple.
If we try to guess what would happen should the story continue, we could say that the couple who were so taken with each other, might begin to have trouble being so lovey-dovey when money issues arise. If they fail to handle the bad situations well, they could end up drifting between happy spells and sad spells all too often. It doesn’t take too long before one person begins to think the one they had married was no longer the same. But, do people really change that quickly? What if it was the way we see that person that changed? Maybe it is our perspective that needs to be adjusted.
Certain events that happen at some point in our lives might be catastrophic enough to ‘change’ us. It could be a romance gone wrong, having our career come crashing down, or losing a loved one to cancer. These are some of the most devastating occurrences that anyone would have to deal and unfortunately, we cannot simply turn off our sadness switch anytime we like. Humans are not wired that way, but there is a way we can slowly and surely get ourselves out of that hole of grief we occasionally find ourselves in. It’s called getting perspective.
What is perspective about?
From afar, you see a forest and when you’re in the forest, you see the trees up close. What you saw at those different instances were different perspectives and it doesn’t mean the nature of the forest changed in any way. The same principle applies to nearly everything else. Perspective is a matter of the values we put forward at any moment in time.
We have a broader perspective of a situation when we judge from a distance, but when we get closer to the reality or are suddenly thrown into it, we don’t see the same picture we were able to see previously. Let us consider the case of the romantic couple once more. As they court, they would be more fixed on the outcomes that are most highly desirable for them, which we can guess would be a happy marriage where they would live in bliss forever.
In the beginning, it’s all about sexual attraction and romantic love, but when they get closer to the reality of living together and starting a family, other issues like money begin to dominate their thinking. Why else do you think there is so much talk about “keeping the spark alive”? But then, one or both of them could find themselves stuck in their initial fantasy, leaving them in a constant rut of sadness.
The divorce rate in the UK might be declining, but the numbers show hundreds of thousands of people are still getting divorced. But let us not paint too much of a dreary picture. Say the couple do not end up divorced, but decide to adjust instead and take their situation as it is. They would have found a balance between their initial perspective of what a marriage should be and what their reality is, without letting concerns over money and other issues affect their marriage nor letting their focus on happiness cause them to ignore other important aspects of marriage. This is what we might then call a happy marriage. You too can choose happiness.
Do it for your health
Loss is about the most terrible reality of life we all have to deal with at different points in time, and our grieving can become so overwhelming that it damages us both psychologically and physically. Studies have shown that persistent, consuming grief is capable of increasing the risk of illnesses such as cancer, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Surely, that is not what we would want for ourselves and neither would our loved ones want that for us.
The truth is it is difficult or even impossible to feel in control of the situation because grief has a way of turning our lives upside down and changing us into a version of ourselves we don’t recognise. But letting the grief consume us is really no way to go. You are already doing great by seeking out a way to end your sadness and be happy again. While it is a slow process, it is sure to leave you better able to deal with every situation that comes threatening you with overwhelming sadness.
Taking a step back
Being perpetually sad is like having your head deep in a thick cloud. You can look around all you want, but you can’t see beyond your nose. Searching for a way out can also prove to be excruciatingly difficult because you don’t see any way out. With grief and overwhelming sadness, you are thrown deep into your own experience of emotional pain and what that does is you begin to develop too much of a narrow attitude to what you are facing.
What you need to do to is try to gain a wider perspective of the issue by taking a couple of steps back and keeping your distance from that cloud. At this stage, you don’t necessarily have to be looking to flick your happiness switch on once you are able to get away from that cloud. Happiness is the goal of course, but acceptance is the first step. While you might have been trying to leave your cloud of sadness behind, sometimes it is actually about creating a physical distance and not merely a psychological one.
The problem you are facing appears so huge partly because you are so close to it, but when you remove yourself from it all and take a step back, you begin to see other options and start to develop a wider perspective of the issue. In some cases, you might need to get away from the places where you spend most of your time or go on a vacation.
This is an approach that can be applied to nearly every situation, for instance, if you are sad because you keep getting laughed at or shamed for who you are or how you look, spending your time with people who see you differently will help. Going away for a while does not mean you should never go back to your friends, loved ones, or home, but it means you will return with a better understanding of yourself and your problem, and having seen that there are more options, you’ll be better able to choose for yourself.
Where creating a physical distance between you and your problems is not possible, then distance yourself from it mentally. It is going to be tough, but do it anyway. Learn to play a new sport, play the piano, put away any reminders of your grief, not forever, but for the time being. Analyse your situation from the angle of friends and loved ones who might have been trying to dig you out of the pit you dug for yourself.
Don’t try to get over it
We are accustomed to hearing that loss and grief are to be pushed aside and gotten over, but this is not necessarily true. When we have to deal with a great loss, it feels overwhelming and we would likely be unable to function right for a while. When we think we should have stopped grieving, we find that we have found our way into a tunnel of deep sorrow and sadness with no way out in sight. The problem is often that we don’t know how to grieve. We and the people around us believe we need to forget, get over the pain, and move on with our lives.
Our brains are not wired to throw emotional memory out the window when we feel like it. The key is not to forget soon, but to remember in the best possible way. The purpose of grief is to make us remember and not to help us forget, and when we try to fight it, it only draws us in deeper. It’s a bit like quick sand. When you see the grief matter for what it really is, you will be able to deal with it appropriately.
How to remember
When we are reminded that it is the birthday of a loved one or any other anniversary associated with someone we have lost, it is normal that we feel sad again. Instead of trying to fight it off, embrace what the feeling is trying to convey. If you feel like crying, go ahead and do so, but also remember what you enjoyed about that person and what you learned from them. The same applies to when your loss is due to a relationship gone sour or a job you lost. Every time you remember, channel your thoughts in a certain direction and gradually, you will shed the pain bit by bit. Time does heal wounds, but scars will remain and that is fine.
Don’t think no one can get how you feel
As much as you feel that no one else can ever understand the kind of pain and sadness you have to deal with, that is not the case at all. Having to watch your loved one go slowly but surely is one of the most painful ordeals anyone will have to go through, but you must remember the grief of others also. First and foremost, the one who is dying is grieving their own pain and death. They would like to stay with you as you would like them to stay, but they don’t have a choice in the matter. Their other relatives and friends would equally feel the pain and grieve too. Even if you feel your pain is greater, never forget that others are grieving too.
Don’t isolate yourself
It is tempting to want to grieve alone and shut the world out. It might not be so bad to do this in the beginning, but only for so long. Think of all the others who care about you and need you to be there for them. Instead of staying away from them, you can let them be there for you as well and together, you can deal with the pain, with no one ending up in a hole of sadness. When you connect with people going through the same pain as you are, you begin to see past your own pain and are able to look past that thick cloud.
In cases where you might not have much of a support system, you are still better off calling on others who have suffered a similar loss. Whether it is a new friend or an old one you haven’t spoken to in years, reach out to someone.
Seasons come and go
Winter comes as it has its time to go, and so does summer, autumn, and spring. But then, we expect them to come again the following year. People are a lot like that. We must realise that different people will come into our lives at different points in time and while many will stay, most will not. This applies to romantic relationships as it does with all the other people who are in our lives. We might want the summer to last the whole year, but we don’t really expect it too. That is acceptance. If we are able to develop a similar perspective on relationships early on, we might be better able to handle it when we have to let go of people we care about.
Instead of dwelling on the fact of them leaving, it would be better for us to focus on the good times and the memories we created with them. Instead of being wary of letting someone else into your life, be hopeful that you can create memories that are equally as good with them. Last summer might be gone forever, but more summers will come and you can make each one just as special. If you have lost a parent you love dearly, perhaps you could replicate their memories with your children while creating new ones.
‘Why?’ The wrong question and yet, the right one
Why me? Why did she have to be the one to die? Why do I have to go through so much pain? Why can’t I just get over it? Why? Why? Why? No matter how many of these questions we ask, we will never find any convincing answers or reasons to justify our sadness. It is normal to ask these questions when we have just experienced a traumatic episode but we shouldn’t let them linger in our heads for too long.
Meanwhile, the “why” question can take on a new meaning and purpose when we ask the right way. Say you don’t like the way you look or are not happy about your current lifestyle and make up your mind to change that, it is the “why” that might keep you going when you are disenchanted with the “how”. The “how” involves tasks like hitting the gym a couple of times a week, sticking to a diet that isn’t much fun, and skipping our favourite snacks. When you are tempted to quit and take yourself back to your hole of sadness, reminding yourself of why you started out in the first place could be enough to keep you on track.
Transitioning from perpetual pain and sadness to happiness and satisfaction might not seem like an easy feat to achieve, but it is doable. It takes time to pick yourself off the ground and get moving again, so you have to be patient with the process. Remember how you were told not to pick at the scabs whenever you had a wound? Healing is emotional pain is a lot like that.
Whatever situation you find yourself in that has made you sad, getting perspective on the matter will go a long way to helping you get your bearing again. To gain a better understanding of an issue, you must be willing to distance yourself and analyse it from different angles. Only then will you be able to paint a full picture with all the details you couldn’t see before.
It is not about denying your pain or anything like that, but it is about striking a balance that lets you live your life normally and happily. The truth is you alone are responsible for your happiness and you must go easy on yourself. Take it one day at a time and gradually, you will able to breathe again. And maybe one day, you will be able to say you lived your life to the fullest in spite of it all.