Ep #265: Smiling at Sadness

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | Smiling at Sadness

When you’ve experienced so much sadness, it’s common to feel worn down by it and to wish it would just go away, but sadness doesn’t exist to hurt you or hold you back. It’s there to remind you that you’ve lost something you care about deeply.

So, can we smile at our sadness, welcome it in a little more, and witness it? 

Join me on this episode as I help you shift the way you relate to your sadness by exploring themes of sadness from Disney’s Inside Out and show you the gifts sadness brings to our lives when we stop shoving it down.

Listen to the Full Episode:


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How trying to force yourself to be happy isn’t always what you need.
  • What happens when you allow yourself to feel sad.
  • The gifts waiting for you inside of sadness.


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  • Inside Out (movie)
  • Inside Out 2 (movie)
  • Cinema Therapy (YouTube account)


Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 265, Smiling at Sadness.

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.

Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. We’re going to talk about smiling and sadness today. I’ve been wanting to do this episode for a while, and it’s time. Before I do that, however, I wanted to give a little shout out to a few people who have left reviews on the podcast lately, I asked for that. And I realized, I’ve asked for it, but I also haven’t really thanked people in a while for doing it.

So “nicker123” you left a review, thank you so much. Kimberly in New York, Priscilla from San Jose, Elizabeth Ballet, a user that is “hfgrkdjfbd.” I don’t know if that’s short for anything or if that’s greeking text, not really sure. Then a listener who calls themselves “standingbackup,” “paslaw7,” “MimiBNH,” “adventureiscalling.” And probably my favorite, “fellowDG,” which I’m a delta gamma and so I assume that’s what this person means, that she is also a member of delta gamma and so, hey, sister, thank you for your review. That made my heart really happy.

Okay, I say thank you, one, because it helps other widows find the podcast and that’s super important to me. And also, two, because podcasting is weird. It’s so strange to be talking into a microphone and you’re not really talking to anyone and you’re hoping that what you do helps and you spend all this time and effort to do it and you don’t really get immediate feedback. So, when you take time to give me feedback, it’s really valuable to me and it brightens my day and it tells me what you like and so just thank you for that. I appreciate it.

Okay, as I said before, I’ve been thinking about doing this podcast episode for a while. And what I notice and experienced myself in my own grief is that when we’ve experienced a lot of sadness, it’s really common to wish it would go away. It’s really common to not see the value in it, to feel worn down by it, to be tired of it, to just want to feel something else. And maybe we don’t even want to feel joy as much as we are just kind of tired of feeling sad. And it can be difficult to see the value and to see what sadness might be giving us in life when it’s so pervasive.

And so, if this resonates with you, I just want you to know that (a) I see you. I see you and you’re not alone. And in this episode, (b) I want to offer you some ways to think about sadness that might be helpful to you. And as I was putting together my notes for this podcast, what I realized, probably subconsciously connected, is that the movie, Inside Out Two by Pixar is coming out this month. In fact, probably by the time you listen to this episode, it’s supposed to air on the 24th. I think that movie will already be out.

I’m not sure if it’s going to be out in my area. I think we might not get it until a little bit later. But I checked online and it looks like it’s supposed to have released June 14th. And first of all, let me just say if you have not seen Inside Out One or Inside Out, it wasn’t called Inside Out One but Inside Out, the original Inside Out, you might not want to listen to this episode of the podcast. Because I want to talk through the themes of sadness and what I think we can take as widows from these characters.

So, I would much rather you go and have the experience of watching that movie for yourself and enjoying it without me spoiling it for you. And if you haven’t listened, I highly encourage you to stop and then come back later. So, if you are still listening, my assumption is that you know I’m about to spoil the movie for you and you’re ready for it. You’re not going to be mad at me about it. Also, please don’t email me and tell me about Inside Out Two until I’ve had a chance to watch it. So don’t spoil it for me yet. Maybe you’ve already seen it.

So, as I was preparing my notes for this episode, I thought, you know what? I’m going to go back and I’m going to YouTube one of my favorite scenes from the movie, which I’ll talk about here in a minute. And, oh, wow, did I go down a rabbit hole. I intended to just watch the one scene where Bing Bong’s wagon has gotten pushed into the dump and there’s an interaction between Joy and Bing Bong and then Sadness and Bing Bong and so I watched that.

And then I found, which I also want to recommend that you watch if you’re interested in this like me, then I found quite a few other commentaries about that movie and my favorite, which has over five million views. So maybe I’m the only one late to the party, is by a couple of lovely humans who call themselves Cinema Therapy. And it’s a therapist and someone who is on the production side of movies and they watch scenes from the movie, and they talk about them.

And it was such a delight to see men actually talk about their emotions and cry and un-shame things. And then in one of the episodes that they did, they actually invited several of the creators of the movie Inside Out to talk about how they animated it and why they made the choices that they did and how some of the stories came together. Which I also found to be really interesting. So, Cinema Therapy is how you can find that on YouTube if you’re interested.

But the whole idea and then this is a great oversimplification is that, of course, Riley and her family, her mom and dad move from where they used to live, Minnesota, Michigan, I can’t remember, somewhere where it’s cold enough that she can play ice hockey regularly and they move to another state, I feel like it’s California. Obviously the details are less interesting to me than the emotional themes. But they move and as they are moving, Riley’s family is kind of telling her essentially, she’s the happy girl and they want her to be happy.

And they’ve probably, because this is what we do as parents when we love our children even though later we might come to regret it. Sometimes we want what we think is best for them and what we think is best for them is happiness. And so, we encourage them to be happy and this is what Riley’s family does. And so, they talk about her as their happy girl. But that’s not what Riley’s feeling. She’s feeling a whole lot of mixed emotions about this move. It’s sad for her to move, and she misses her friends, and she misses her hockey team and her memories there.

And so, we’ve got this experience that Riley is having in her life and then the whole story is being told from the perspective of the emotions in Riley’s brain. The emotions that are kind of controlling Riley’s experience. You’ve got Anger, disgust, fear, sadness and joy. And Joy thinks that she is superior. Joy thinks that all of Riley’s memories should be joyful. She thinks she is the answer, and she thinks sadness is a problem. And we see this several times in the movie where Joy is trying to keep sadness away from Riley’s memories.

If one of the characters touches the memories, then the memories become ‘tainted’ with that emotion. And so, Joy doesn’t want sadness to touch any of Riley’s memories, because then Riley will be sad and Joy doesn’t want her to be sad because Joy thinks that joy is superior to sadness. And isn’t that so relatable because isn’t that what we were taught? What I thought, especially coming into grief, that the goal is to be happy and that somehow joy is better than sadness. Joy is to be preferred over sadness.

So, we see Joy go to great lengths to keep sadness away from Riley’s memories. She at one point draws a circle and tries to get her to stand in the circle. She doesn’t want sadness to be at the control panel. She just doesn’t want Riley to be sad, and so she’s really relating to sadness as a problem. And so that’s what we see at first.

And then this is my favorite, I don’t know, I have so many favorite scenes. But one of my favorite scenes and the one that I went to YouTube to watch is the scene where Bing Bong, who is Riley’s imaginary friend from her childhood, the wagon, the little push wagon or pull wagon with wings that Bing Bong has, gets pushed into the dump. And that’s so sad for Bing Bong because he has plans for Riley. He’s going to take Riley on another big adventure.

And essentially what’s happening is that Riley is outgrowing her imaginary friend. And so, Bing Bong is sitting there on the side of the dump and looking down at the wagon and starting to get sad about this whole experience. And of course, Joy, who thinks that you shouldn’t be sad, you should be happy, comes up to him and starts trying to make him happy. Starts trying to make him laugh and joke with him and she makes faces and silly noises and basically tries to talk him out of how he feels. So relatable.

How many times has someone who loves you and cares about you, insinuated that joy is superior to sadness or been so uncomfortable with your sadness that they try to talk you out of it. And that’s the last thing most of us want when we’re sad. We don’t want to be talked out of our sadness. And so, then what happens is that the character, Sadness comes up to Bing Bong and she sits down and she witnesses his sadness. Sadness doesn’t need to be solved or fixed. Sadness needs to be expressed, it needs to be felt, it needs to be witnessed.

And that’s what Sadness does as she sits right there and she says, “Oh, that’s sad, this was important to you.” And is there with Bing Bong as he talks about it and he just expresses that he is sad and Sadness is right there to witness it. And then he cries his candy tears. Bing Bong cries, little candy pieces. And he says, “Okay, I feel better.” And Joy kind of looks at Sadness and she’s like, “What did you do?” And she was like, “I don’t know.” And then it gets interrupted, of course, they can’t give us all the goodness in one scene.

But the idea is, joy is not the answer to sadness. Trying to force ourselves to be happy or make ourselves feel better isn’t always what we need. Sometimes what we need, and especially when we’re sad, is to be able to express our sadness, to have it be witnessed, to have somebody else be there with us as we feel it and I just love that.

Then really the progression of the movie is that Joy keeps trying to solve this problem. Riley eventually runs away. She gets unhappy, she runs away, and Joy is trying to solve this problem. And ultimately, what she concludes, much to her dismay, is that not only is sadness not a problem, sadness is actually the answer. I can’t even say the words without crying. Sadness is actually the answer to what Riley is going through.

And she sees that and she sees that Riley is not able to allow herself to be sad which is why she’s disconnecting and running away. And so, she lets the character, Sadness hold the memories that Riley has of her childhood and where she used to live. And then all the yellow memories turn blue, which shows us the experience that so many of us have where our joyful memories turn bittersweet and that’s the way of it. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Sadness isn’t there to hurt us or harm us or hold us back. Sadness is not there to make our lives hard. It definitely doesn’t need to be fixed. Sadness is there to remind us that we’ve lost something that we care about and it helps us slow down and it helps us assess what we’ve lost. And those memories, when we allow ourselves to feel sad, do feel different. That is when they become bittersweet, but we don’t have to see that as a bad thing. We can see that as a valuable thing and I love that.

I’ve seen this movie so many times and every time I see it, I cry, every time. I mean obviously, clearly I’m recording a podcast about it, I can’t even not cry. So clearly Pixar, they’re movies made for adults that kids can also watch but the themes in Pixar movies and the storytelling capabilities, it resonates with me unlike just anything else.

Anyway, so Joy, let’s Sadness hold Riley’s memories. And because Riley allows herself to feel sad, that’s when she can connect again with her family. That’s when she tells her family, “Hey, I know I’m not supposed to feel this way essentially, I know you want me to be happy, but I’m sad.” And then they in turn, open up and share their experience with her that they miss home too. And then, because they do that, they get a deeper sense of connection. And that is a gift that sadness offers us.

That is a gift that sadness offers us, deeper connection, connection over a shared experience where there was pain and loss. And we are honest about what that experience is like for us and we let others support us and because of that, we have the opportunity for an increased and deeper sense of connection, which is such a beautiful thing. Now, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we’re vulnerable with people and they reject us, and we actually don’t get that deeper sense of connection, but I do think that that is a benefit of sadness, that it makes that possible.

I also think it’s interesting, I read this once, that there’s some research that shows that one of the benefits of sadness is that because we slow down and go inward and take stock and can really kind of forget ourselves. It’s like that feeling of when time just slows down and it’s like the whole world is still moving, but you kind of might experience it as though you’re in slow motion. Sometimes, when that happens because we are so introspective, which is not a bad thing, but it can mean that we aren’t as able to take care of ourselves.

That’s when we might find that it’s harder to actually eat. It’s harder to do the things that are required to take care of ourselves. And one of the things that I think is interesting about sadness is that even though we don’t really consciously do it, we make expressions on our faces when we’re sad. And researchers have concluded that those expressions that we make, so our dog gets loose and our lower lip gets a little pouty and maybe our eyes kind of narrow and our eyebrows scrunch in a little bit.

But that as humans were wired to pick up on those facial expressions as a sign that that person might need us, that that person might need our help. And so, in that way, our sadness helps other people see when we might need them, which also gives us the opportunity to form deeper connections and I think that’s really beautiful too.

Okay, so the last thing that I wanted to share with you that I did not realize and I didn’t even realize it until I went down this YouTube rabbit hole, I just never noticed. And I was reading through comments in some of these videos that I was watching about this movie Inside Out. And did you notice, maybe you did, did you notice that Joy’s hair, Joy is the only character whose hair color is not the same as her body color?

Anger is red and his hair is red. And Disgust is green and her hair is green. And Sadness is blue and she’s got a little hat on, I think, but she’s all blue. Everybody has hair that matches their body color except for Joy and Joy’s hair is blue. Joy’s hair is blue. And what that to me says, I don’t know. I never saw anyone from Inside Out validate this, but what that to me says is that that’s a way of saying, joy is not possible without sadness. The only reason we get to experience joy is because we know sadness.

Sadness is what happens when we lose something that we had joy about, they go together. So, to watch the character in the movie go from thinking that it’s all about her to realizing that that’s not true. It’s not that she’s not valuable, she is. But that all the emotions are valuable, and especially sadness, and then sadness saves the day. Joy gives her the controls and it’s just such a beautiful thing.

And what I want to offer is, what if you looked at your sadness like that character in Inside Out and you saw her as your little buddy, a value, a valuable part of your human experience. And it’s not to say that we have to love the experience of sadness or be grateful that we’re sad. But what a difference to consider the value that sadness really does add instead of trying to push it away or shove it down or reject it.

And remind ourselves when we’re having those moments like Bing Bong who’s so sad and we’ve been buying into the nonsense that we’re supposed to be grateful or talk ourselves out of it, or find the silver lining or be happy. That’s nonsense. That’s toxic positivity. That’s nonsense. What we really need is to figure out a way to express how we’re feeling, to feel it, to let it be witnessed.

And just like when Bing Bong’s sadness gets witnessed and he cries his candy tears, he feels better. But it’s not because he got away from sadness, it’s because he allowed it. And I think what a lot of us are experiencing when we’re so tired of feeling sadness is in part because we’re resisting it and we’re trying to push it away. Instead of reminding ourselves that it is supposed to be part of our human life. It is especially supposed to be part of our grief.

It isn’t a sign that we’ve done anything wrong. It isn’t a sign that we should be thinking happy thoughts. It’s a sign that we’ve lost something that we care about. And what a beautiful thing it is to be human and to have things that we care about that we can lose, it’s still hard but beautiful hard. So, can we smile at our sadness? Can we welcome it a little bit more? Can we see the value in it? Can we have a different experience of it because we’re not trying to shove it away or tell ourselves we can’t handle it or that it’s too much or that it shouldn’t be there?

That’s what I want to offer you today in this teary episode. And I’m so excited about Inside Out Two. What I know about it is that we have new characters. I was looking it up and trying to research it, and I saw that we have the new character of Anxiety. We have Envy. We have Embarrassment, Nostalgia and Ennui, which is French for boredom and disinterest. And of course, Inside Out Two is the story of Riley as a teenager. So, we can all imagine, of course. Of course, Anxiety, Envy and Ennui would make an appearance, that makes sense, and Embarrassment.

So, I look forward to seeing that. I hope this shifts the way that maybe you consider relating to your sadness. And I will say that the sad parts of me see the sad parts of you, and that’s a beautiful thing. Okay, I love you. You’ve got this. Take care and I’ll see you next week, bye bye.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence. Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than what you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click Work With Me for details and next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.

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About your coach

I created a new life using small, manageable steps and techniques that made sense. The changes I experienced were so profound I became a Master Certified Life Coach and created a group coaching program for widows like us called Mom Goes On. It’s now my mission to show widowed moms exactly how to do what I’ve done and create a future they can look forward to.

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