Sorrow is not generally a publicly appropriate emotion. Unless there has been a tragedy, most people (and especially women) are expected to be emotionally neutral or even positive all the time. This can be a dangerous expectation. For example, I have a period app, and if I ever log that I’m feeling “stressed,” “sad,” or “emotional,” it tells me that I can actually control my emotions to remain positive all the time. I don’t think that this is healthy advice. Humans feel sorrow for different reasons, and arbitrarily pushing these feelings away produces a culture of inauthenticity and a fear of honesty. A sociological term for this would be “emotional management,” in which people are expected to subvert their prevailing emotions in favor of more socially acceptable emotions. Women have been historically labeled as “emotional” with a negative stigma attached to it, and so, many of us have learned to be “emotionally intelligent” by processing and dealing with our emotions so as not to bring them into a wider sphere.
I am not saying that handling emotions in healthy ways and having emotional intelligence is not good, and in fact, emotional management ensures that society continues to run smoothly. So there are some benefits. But our society has taken this too far IMO. Many people do not learn to process sorrow in a healthy way, or even to accept the fact that they are sorrowful and to allow themselves to remain there and be in that place. Rather, sorrow is seen as an emotion that is only a process on its way to yielding greater positivity. A dynamic process rather than a present moment in life.
I don’t think either that people should romanticize sorrow or seek it out. It is good to take joy in everyday life. But sorrow will come, and when it does, it’s OK to sit in it, to be a human person who is emotional and at times, overcome with emotion. It will help us to be honest with each other when this happens.
Right now I am feeling deep sorrow, the kind that pushes its pressure through the veins and makes the heart feel a bit waterlogged. When this happens, sometimes I will have words forcing themselves out of me and other times, all I can do is let the feeling ripple through me. The latter is where I’m at right now, and that’s OK. It’s okay not to be able to write poetry, and it’s okay to be a human being person and let yourself process emotions. There is no gain in false guilt or shame.
If this post is making anyone kind of uncomfortable, I’m not surprised, partly because of the stigma around sorrow or “negativity.” I also don’t blame anyone for their discomfort. People don’t talk about these things often, and it’s normal to become uncomfortable about them and want to offer condolences. But though I am feeling sorrowful, I also have hope, and this hope does not put me to shame. I am realizing that I don’t need to perfectly manage my emotions so as to avoid sorrow. In fact, I can’t. Sorrow will come, and sorrow is here, and I am being me, right where I am right now. I have peace with that.