Stealing Sadness

When is it ok to cry at some one else’s bad news?

If a stranger, an acquaintance, a colleague, a friend or family member tells you something sad… Is it ok for you to take ownership of that sadness and cry? Or is it selfish?

An acquaintance of mine is having a very tough time (that’s an understatement!) We get on well and over the next year or so we could become friends. When she told me the situation she is in, with 2 very small children, I started crying. I felt so deeply sad for her and so helpless. But I instantly felt selfish! It’s not for me to cry. It’s not my sadness.

So it got me thinking… Does crying at someone else’s bad news take something away from them? To trivialise it… Is it like wearing a white dress to a wedding? For want of a better phrase: are you ‘stealing their thunder’? What’s more, does it make the situation worse for them?

When I got home that night I couldn’t stop thinking about my acquaintance. How will she cope? How can I help? Is there anything I can do? Ultimately the answer to some of those questions is very little. She has close friends and family around her, supporting her and whom I’m sure are stronger than I am and don’t cry at her sad news.

But what is the correct reaction to someone else’s sad news that you feel touched by? Is it ok to cry or are you stealing their sadness?

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2 thoughts on “Stealing Sadness

  1. Hello Emma! Sally here, remembering you from when you were a teenager, back in the day, and now you’re all grown up! I have a few thoughts on your blog. I don’t think crying at someone elses sad news is selfish, I think it shows you care, and empathise. I remember being a newly qualified nurse on a palliative care ward, we’d just lost a patient who I was extremely fond of. I held his hand as he died. When his sister came in later that day, I couldn’t help but cry as I had to tell her the sad news. I felt so bad for my tears, in her hour of need, but her response shocked me. She hugged me and thanked me for caring so much. What I saw as a moment of weakness, she saw as care and concern of her loved one. I’ve never forgotten it. Sometimes I think we are too ‘British’, we are stoical, we have a stiff upper lip as a nation. When that upper lip trembles at someone else’s misfortune it just shows we are human, and that we feel deeply. I’m sure your colleague was touched at your concern for her xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Sally, so lovely to hear from you. Thanks for sharing that. It must have been such a moving experience for you and what a beautiful reaction to have received from the sister. I agree with you about your ‘stiff upper lip’ comment. But it can be difficult to shake off and like you I often feel bad for my tears… Or at the very least a little embarrassed! I hope you and your boys are all well. X

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