“Inside Out” and making space for sadness

Eleanor and I went to see “Inside Out” yesterday, and I cannot say enough good things about it. I’m going to try not to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it.

This is a movie for adults. I know it’s an animated movie marketed toward children, and Eleanor definitely enjoyed it. It’s not inappropriate for kids. If I had it to do over, I might have had her watch it when she was older because I think she would have gotten much more out of it. The message of the movie is that joy and sadness need to co-exist. I love that. I sobbed through a lot of “Inside Out,” to the point that I think Eleanor was becoming worried.

In the early months after Genevieve died, I was sure my life had been ruined. Even if I survived the crushing sadness and depression, I knew that I would be sad every day for the rest of my life, that I would never have another day of unfettered joy. Who wants to go through life like that?

That’s the message society sends us, isn’t it? Life is only worthwhile when packed with shiny Instagram moments. There are dozens of books — many of them best-sellers — on how to lead a happier life. Those of us who carry some sort of permanent scar struggle not to be outcasts. We are outcasts because we want to talk about sad things, and that isn’t allowed in our society. Then other people might feel sad. Can’t have that. We might miss out on a couple minutes of happiness.

I needed a lot of time and struggle to see that embracing sadness improves my life. People don’t talk about my middle daughter because they think they will make me sad. In truth, it is when people gloss over my daughter, when they ask whether I will have a “third” baby, that I feel sad. My kids give my life meaning, all three of them.

Most of the loss parents I know are funny and sarcastic and joyful, after they get through the first year or two of grief. The people who have the most reason to be sad are the most grateful people I know. It’s that flipping coin of joy and sadness.

I do think it’s growing more acceptable to talk about sadness and grief. As always, I want progress to happen quickly.

I love Pixar for putting out this movie during the summer when every other thing at the theater is Super Hero Movie, Part 9. And for tackling a topic that we seem to handle so poorly. Perhaps “Inside Out” will help spark conversations that lead to more emotional maturity and to the understanding that a rich life can include, and indeed must include, both joy and sorrow.

2 thoughts on ““Inside Out” and making space for sadness

  1. I haven’t seen it yet. Elliot took Benjamin, but there’s no doubt I planned to bring tissue. <3

  2. This really resonated with me. Realizing that I will carry this sadness with me every day was really daunting at first. I am trying to learning that sadness is part of being human and not a bad thing. Thank you for your honesty and openness in such a public forum.

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