Sadness. A noun, the word that describes an emotion whose meaning many people may not truly understand. I wondered if I understood. Unsure, I sought Mirriam’s wisdom.
Definition of SAD
a : affected with or expressive of grief or unhappiness : downcast b (1) : causing or associated with grief or unhappiness : depressing (2) : regrettable, deplorable c : of little worth
: of a dull somber color
— sad·ly adverb
— sad·ness noun
Yep, that’s it, I get it. I understand its meaning and yes, I get sadness. Sadness comes to me about this time every January. This morning I was driving to work and sadness hit me like the blinding snow of a winter storm – the kind where I can’t see anything in front of me when I’m behind the wheel. It puts me in a state of panic. It’s a scary feeling of losing control, followed by a feeling of emptiness.
Why does sadness come in January? For me, there are several reasons. I live in a city where the average number of sunny days totals a mere 61! The Rochester skies aren’t just cloudy in January – they’re GRAY, dark gray at that. There’s the post-Christmas season blues. I combat the post-Christmas blues by playing Christmas music during the entire month. It snows. It snows a lot in January. It’s cold in January. Lots of people fall prey to seasonal affectation disorder in January.
But the biggest reason sadness visits me in January is because my dad and mom passed away in January. Mom and Dad were childhood sweethearts in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood. Family and WWII separated them for a few years, but ultimately they reunited and married in 1946. My Dad owned a small neighborhood grocery store. He didn’t make much money and had no pension or company-paid benefits. Yet somehow he managed to send his three children to the best private schools in Rochester. Mom and Dad raised us the way everyone did in those days – with a firm hand, a loving heart and a strong work ethic.
For 23 years the sadness from losing my Dad has enveloped me to varying degrees. Dad died suddenly from a massive coronary on January 5th, the “Twelfth Night.” We were devastated, robbed of the years he could delight in the love of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved Christmas. He loved life, his friends, and most of all, his family. I have so many memories to share of my Dad, too many to write now.
A piece of Mom died with Dad in 1988. She would spend the next 21 years of her life in various states of being — sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy and many times a little like a lost puppy. My brother, sister and I took good care of her physical and financial needs but she missed her Joe. The best Chuck, Donna and I can figure, she began developing Alzheimer’s disease sometime in her seventies. A disease of isolation, I can’t help but wonder if her memory loss started when Dad passed. Mom passed in the early morning hours of January 25, 2009 with us at her side. It was not sudden but it was still devastating. Mom loved to sew and she was a hat maker in New York City before she came to Rochester. Her sense of fashion was impeccable; she made suits, dresses and wedding dresses for so many family members and friends. She could fix anything – I loved that about her. There is so much more to tell of her story.
So that’s why sadness comes to me in January. I look at the gray skies and my heart feels blue. Sadness is my companion for much of this month. But, like the blinding snow, sadness eventually slows its pace to a rhythm that is manageable and not so scary. The good news is that January is half over. And I know that without sadness, happiness and joy wouldn’t feel so wonderful. Perhaps Carl Jung said it best:
Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”