I love learning life lessons through movies made for children, and I’m talking lessons bigger than just “be yourself” and “live your dreams.” I’ve learned to hold tight to family bonds (Anastasia), to be a loyal friend (Toy Story), to seek enduring, meaningful, adventurous love (Up), just to name a few.

Recently I watched Inside Out, and I was moved by this profound emotional truth: sadness is good. Let that sink in.

Isn’t it amazing that we, such complex and confusing creatures, can experience joyful sorrow. Think of the wide range of emotions that fall under the sadness umbrella: there’s disappointment, depression, frustration, grief, longing, loneliness…each of those distinct and powerful. They interact with each other to create a unique sadness experience for each individual. But it is sorrow, deeply felt grief over the loss of something profoundly meaningful, that I find particularly fascinating. 

I served an eighteen month mission in Finland for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I moved all around Finland; the most I ever lived in one area was six months. It is the nature of missionary service that you grow close to people and then you are asked to move, leaving behind your dear friends. That was hard. In my first area, we met regularly with an endearing old woman, who would make us dinner once a week, always followed by us singing her hymns and sharing a spiritual message. Because I was new to the country, my Finnish was rocky, and that’s a generous description. I was lucky if I understood ten percent of what she said. This sweet woman knew probably a total of ten English phrases, and I was stumbling along with poorly pieced together and grammatically incorrect bursts of Finnish. But despite the communication barrier, we both expressed love through service. The result was a relationship closer than anything I could have imagined developing with an elderly woman on the other side of the world whose language I definitely didn’t speak. One of the hardest moments of my mission was telling my dear friend that I couldn’t come to visit any longer because I was going away. She responded with one of the precious few English phrases left in her vocabulary after years of disuse, “I have sorrow.” And it pierced me to the core.

Try to describe where you feel sorrow. I can’t pinpoint an anatomical place, but I’d bet money it’s the same place you feel love. Sorrow wouldn’t exist without love, because sorrow is love, combined with the knowledge that something cherished must come to an end. It isn’t the love that comes to an end – that’s called apathy. It is when the object of love is separated from you that you feel sorrow.

But before you go disparaging sorrow, think of the greater purpose it serves. Sorrow adds a richness and depth to life. It teaches us to recognize goodness. It motivates us to strengthen relationships as we seek support. And the real miracle is, we can experience joy through out the entire process.

So consider this my thank you letter to sorrow. I don’t know that I can say I hope to see you soon, but when you come, I hope for the wisdom to remember your blessing.

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