In spite of your efforts in pursuing only desirable things and circumstances that can bring you happiness, undesirable things and circumstances intrude on your life anyway.
They upset the status quo and can throw you into a sorrowful, depressed state. How can you get over sorrow?
To get over sorrow, first accept the situation
The first thing to do to get over sorrow about a particular situation that you cannot do anything about is to accept it. It’s here, you can’t undo it or push it away. Resisting or denying it actually worsens your pain.
The Buddha illustrates this point by comparing the sorrow we feel to being hit by a stinging, fast-moving arrow. Even as the victim reels in shock and pain, he is mercilessly hit by a second arrow.
The first arrow represents the unexpected blows that come into our life. The second arrow represents our internal reaction to what has happened.
At first, there is disbelief and denial. You may think, “What just happened? This can’t be happening to me. There must be some mistake.”
When it starts to sink in, you may feel fear, anxiety or become depressed. You question, “Why did this have to happen to me? What will become of me? How will I manage?”
The suffering from the second arrow is self-inflicted and far greater than the sorrow of the first arrow. It can debilitate your forward movement in life. A wise man once said, Death kills you only once, but fear kills you at every moment.
Acceptance calms down the runaway emotions and helps you look at the situation with some level of clarity. You can’t think straight when your emotions overpower you.
Resisting and complaining about what you are facing is akin to telling the universe that has infinite intelligence that you know better than it.
To get over sorrow with greater ease, stop fighting against what is and accept the situation. Remind yourself that everything is temporary, and this situation too will one day be behind you.
When you can accept what is, you will not only get over sorrow in a shorter period of time, it will also allow you to remain in control of your own state of mind and happiness.
Here’s a visualization that can help you accept something that you cannot change.
Have faith that there must be some higher good in it
A situation is just that—a situation. It’s your judgements, expectations and attachments that makes it “good” or “bad”.
For example, being fired from your job could be the very thing you needed that took you out of stagnation and prompted you to explore the field of work that you are passionate about.
Getting into a car accident and being confined at home with a neck brace could be the jolt you needed to reflect on your life and priorities.
On a personal note, when my father suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-four, my life came crashing down. I was in such a state of shock that for one full year I didn’t cry—I just couldn’t. And after that, all I did was cry.
The biggest blessing in that horribly painful experience when I was twenty, is that it set me on my spiritual seeking. I started to search for the answers to the larger questions of life such as: Why do some people die young and others live so long that they wish to die? What happens to the soul after death? Is there life after death? Why are we born? What is the purpose of life?
My father’s death prompted me to seek out a guru to guide me.
Every painful situation has hidden gifts. We may or may not find those treasures right away. But it helps to first accept the situation and have faith that there must be some higher good in it.
Spiritual evolution is the goal
Creation is a beautifully ordered and intelligent series of inter-dependent systems. Swami Chinmayananda calls it a “cosmos, not a chaos”.
In this orderly cosmos, nothing happens randomly without purpose. There is a higher purpose for all our experiences. We are all growing in consciousness. As we do, we bring out the spiritual shine from within us. That is why growing inwardly is called spiritual evolution.
We evolve by learning from our experiences. And, what we experience is determined by our past actions. This is the Law of Karma.
The happiness that we are enjoying or the pain that we are experiencing now is a natural expression of the playing out of this law of consequences. It is not an accident as there are no accidents in the infinitely intelligent cosmos.
I know this may seem harsh but the one question that goes through everyone’s mind when someone is experiencing a loss or tragedy is, why? There is really no other logical reason or satisfactory answer for suffering.
Some people go through the most horrendously agonizing situations and pointing an accusing finger at them for being “bad’ in the past is not the right thing to do. We must be compassionate and do what we can to alleviate their suffering. And when it comes to dealing with ourselves, we must be equally gentle.
Understanding and accepting the natural laws of life can be an effective way to get over sorrow. Again, it starts with acceptance and faith in a higher meaning to life.
I remember my grandmother suffered a stroke and was bedridden for ten years. My aunt, her daughter, who was single and living with her became her only caregiver. She saw to her every need day and night, seven days a week.
It was terribly difficult for both of them. But both these ladies understood and accepted the laws of life. They held on to a firm faith that their situation was divinely orchestrated, and they would have to go through this situation only until their load of bad karma was exhausted. Every day that passed meant one less day of suffering for them.
My aunt once told me she was grateful to God for giving her a chance to serve her mother and chisel away at her personal load of bad karma.
A spiritual teacher once compared going through suffering to being a dirty shirt that is beaten about and wrung in a washing machine. It’s “painful” for the shirt but the result of the washing is that it becomes spotlessly clean!
Likewise, going through painful situations helps an individual soul to be cleansed of the impurities of the past and allows it to move onward on its spiritual journey. Spiritual evolution is the goal.
Understanding and attitude make a huge difference in helping you get over sorrow
To get over sorrow, it pays to reflect on the impermanent and ever-changing nature of things and beings, and the real purpose of life. This promotes a mature outlook on life that helps us to get over sorrow with less pain and more ease.
One of the most important things we must do to promote a higher outlook on life is to keep spiritual company everyday.
Keeping spiritual company or satsang (Sanskrit) means immersing your mind and heart with spiritual and inspirational company. This could be in the form of discussing spirituality, spiritual growth and your spiritual journey with other people. You can read spiritual or inspirational books and other publications that cultivate faith in the divine and promote a higher perspective in life. And, the internet is has many spiritual teachers sharing their wisdom.
Partaking of satsang will enable you to have a positive attitude and prevent your spirit to become weak in the face of difficulties. You will be better able to remain steadfast and not allow your mind to slip into overwhelm and depression.
Without a spiritual focus, we tend to take on the attitude of being a victim and start blaming God, things or people for our difficulties.
Only you can uplift yourself. Positivity and courage have to come from within yourself. Inner transformation through spiritual understanding will build a positive attitude and make a huge difference in how you meet the challenges of life.
Give it time
To get over sorrow, have patience and faith that time heals all things. What seems insurmountable and agonizing today will become a mere memory in the future.
Understand that life is a mix of happy and unhappy experiences. In your pursuit of happiness, some unexpected, not-so-happy circumstances will enter your life. Accept that as a given so you will not be thrown off balance as badly when adversity strikes.
Take responsibility for what happens in your life. Understand that the universe brings you what you have earned from your own past actions.
Cultivate faith and a positive mindset by keeping spiritual company. You will grow in inner strength and be able to look for the good in seemingly dismal circumstances.
And lastly, to get over sorrow, give it time. The sorrow that seems unbearable now will eventually heal in time.
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