Book Review: The Other Side of Sadness
I’ve been reflecting on the idea of resilience lately. I want to know more about how it’s possible to find beauty, gratitude, and joy in the midst of grief and trauma, which was my own experience after the stillbirth of my son, Ellis.
My movement through grief has been like breathing—an idea I read in a book titled, The Other Side of Sadness, which uses decades of research to debunk commonly held beliefs about grief.
During grief I experienced uncontrollable episodes of weeping (fondly referred to as “grief bursts”) and yet soon afterwards I could feel deep gratitude or even joy. I cycled in and out of sadness, joy, pain, laughter, sorrow, and gratitude—similar to the cycle of inhaling and exhaling during breathing.
Grief doesn’t hurt all the time because we naturally have these moments of reprieve—it’s automatic, like breathing. And over time my experience has been that the moments of reprieve get longer while the moments of pain get shorter. It’s like we’re able to take a long exhale that releases the pain.
These reprieves also make it easier for others to be around us during grief, because let’s be real—it can be so difficult to be present with someone who has gone through a massive loss; we often don’t know what to say or how to ease their pain. The “exhales” and moments of reprieve during grief help facilitate necessary human connection.
The book emphasizes that we often underestimate how much others will support us during grief and that we are very poor predictors of our own resilience.
People have said things to me such as, “I could never be as strong as you are.” I would’ve said the same thing before going through the trauma and grief of losing a baby, yet to these statements I reply, “Yes you could, and you will be.”
Everyone will experience grief at some point and most of us are well-equipped (more than we know) to cope with it. That doesn’t mean it won’t be painful, we just underestimate our own resilience and how much we will be supported by others.
We are resilient creatures! This book is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.