Gray Skies, Blue Heart

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.”

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10 Responses to Gray Skies, Blue Heart

  1. Alison F. says:


    You’re a beautiful writer. I appreciate this glimpse into your soul.

    When my father’s father passed away a couple years ago, my grandmother’s memory started to quickly fade. It’s a sad thing, almost like they don’t want to be here anymore. It’s kind of beautiful, too, knowing that their love was so strong.

    Sending you a hug!

  2. carlorustico says:

    Congratulations on getting half-way through what must be your toughest month of the year! I appreciate your glass-half-full approach to SAD 🙂

    The tough “month” for me is just starting. Mid-January to mid-February is my struggle. The highs and lows, the promises and realities, the run-up and the aftermath of the holidays are all behind me. Annual rebirth lies in the too-distant future. But there are some bright spots. My 45 year love affair renews each year toward the end of January; early February brings the reality of another chalk-mark on my growth wall. But then again, these are typically the coldest months of the year.

    And yet we have little choice but to face these times and move on. Your conclusions and quote are apt. I can add nothing.

    Come on, Spring!

    • I miss your blogs. I hope you will be able to get back to them in Florida. Honestly, I am finding such solace in these writings. This is going to be a big birthday for you, it’s always on my mind. Glad you will be someplace warm and sunny.

  3. Sondra says:

    Hi Ro:

    My sad month is October. It’s when my father died & it’s his birthday. When I was 5 & he died, my world crumbled in front of me. Fall is cold, rainy & not so pretty to me anymore & I feel so sad about losing him so early.

    Last October I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to dwell on my sadness anymore. It had been 36 years & I needed to let him rest in peace & try a new approach. I was going to be happy for all the wonderful blessings in my life. Particularly, my husband, my health, my wonderful new job with all the special people I’ve met and my crazy family. Believe it or not, it helped & October wasn’t so bad!

    You ever want to try a yoga class with me on Monday or Tuesday nights…let me know. It may make you feel a little better! 🙂

  4. Sondra, I am sorry, I didn’t know. I was fortunate I had him until I was 37. Every year I say that next year I will take a sunny vacation to escape January but I never do it. Maybe it’s time to commit. Thanks for the encouraging words. Mary was talking about yoga the other day – I know, I should give it a whirl.

    • Sondra says:

      There’s a great class on Tues. nights called Restorative Yoga. Haven’t gone yet. But have heard wonderful things. Plan to go this Tues night. Would love company if you’re interested!

  5. Sondra says:

    And P.S. I love your blog! Keep writing!

  6. bbrasley says:

    Rosemarie, this post is just beautiful. I have similar feelings about January for many of the same reasons. My Mom and my Grandma each died on January 15, so this is always a day when I think of them with so much sadness that they did not see my children grow up.

    You and I will have to be sunshine for each other, to help each other get through the rest of this dark, cold month. See you Monday.

  7. Do says:

    Very honest and true. A tough month, to be sure. But also, for me, the month of my birth…so I guess I’m luckier that I have that to keep me in check. On the other hand, it’s tough having a birthday in a month that makes so make people sad♥

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