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Emails to my Therapist

Sharp Unprovoked Sadness, Coming and Going

Dear Nicholas, This week for a couple of days, I felt sudden onslaughts of seemingly unprovoked sadness, like clouds crossing a mostly clear sky, suddenly arriving, gradually departing. By unprovoked, I mean having no obvious immediate trigger. I told husband Bob about this Thursday night and he said, “Death is sad.”

Yes, it is.

Nobody in my closest circle is clearly actively dying right this minute. However, death is in the air for me more than once was the case.

Calling the Roll

Last week a client of mine died suddenly; she lived in New York and I hadn’t met her, but reading someone’s work as it evolves, knowing her goals and struggles with it, is also intimacy.

Three weeks ago, a friend of Bob’s, warm long-time acquaintance of mine, died.

And then my mom is 96 and frail and Bob has had several serious health problems in the last year and a half.

I guess that’s what’s moving these traveling shadows across the sun–death–but I never feel a trigger for the emotion in the moment.

When I’m driving is when it has tended to strike. That’s when the cloud suddenly darkens the road.¬†What will make it vanish again is getting out of the car and involved in a more engrossing ¬†activity.

Two Other Ways to Deal

In the moment, I use two ways to deal with the feeling: one, let it linger until it departs, and two (your suggestion), focus on gratitude for who’s still with me and time I’ve had with those who’re gone. (I remember your email that said in total, “Gratitude for Joel,” a message complete in itself.)

Even so, these passing clouds make the ground below me and the scenery around me more clearly temporary. I walked with a 90-something friend of Mom’s out to her car a week ago and she said, “It doesn’t get any easier.”

I’ve written about this here before and no doubt will again. Seemingly unprovoked sadness has its deep roots.

It’s quite a large matter to cope with–this disappearing of the living–and I think we all deserve a lot of credit for coming to terms with it all.

Yours, feeling pretty good at the moment,


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  • April 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm Reply

    Excellent, Peggy.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 14, 2018 at 6:19 pm Reply

      Thanks, Susan! It sure does hit all of us.

  • Lou
    April 14, 2018 at 5:12 pm Reply

    Griefwork takes strange paths. Many surprise visits. Just the wind blowing leaves on a nearby tree can be enough to set it off.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 14, 2018 at 6:19 pm Reply

      Lou, I’d know you’re a poet even if I didn’t know it.

  • Barbara Bailly
    April 14, 2018 at 6:47 pm Reply

    I know that feeling Peggy. As I get older Death is starting to appear more frequently. Our own mortality accompanies it

    • Peggy Payne
      April 14, 2018 at 8:34 pm Reply

      Yes, our own mortality does seem to be in the mix, Barbara, though I can’t say that I’m much conscious of it. Some who’ve studied the subject a lot think that’s the basis of all anxiety. Not sure if I think that’s true, but how could it not play a huge part in our emotional lives.

      • Ron Perkinson
        April 15, 2018 at 7:55 pm Reply

        Peggy- Talk about synergy. I was unable to attend the funeral of a third cousin and good friend yesterday because I was a pallbearer at the burial of a great friend of over 40 years. I am curious as to whether your husband, and others, who have experienced brushes with death see it differently as a result of that experience. I know I do. Without any basis for this view other than a personal feeling, I believe that death casts a much larger shadow over those who have only confronted death as a vague evrntiality . Those who have had that eventuality become real and imminent tend to accommodate it. After survival, at least in my case, subsequent death possibility is not as threatening as the first time. None of this includes the hope or fear generated by a religious concept of an afterlife. I actually find a feeling of comfort in shedding my angst about my mortality. A major aspect of the death aversion is the fear you will not be missed. You will be missed, only by not as many ,or for so long , as you wish.

        • Peggy Payne
          April 15, 2018 at 11:59 pm Reply

          I’m sorry about those two good friends, Ron. That’s a lot of loss at once. I told Bob about your question and he said he would answer it in a comment himself. His brush with death has made me more aware of the possibility of loved ones dying at any moment. For myself, I think I’m still hanging onto a fair amount of my teenage hubris. My rationale for it now is that I likely have my mother’s genes and she has been remarkably resilient. That has been hard for her though because she has lost so many people. On being missed: I know I’d like people to read my books after I’m gone. Otherwise, I have guilt-in-advance for my death upsetting anyone. But if I live as long as I foolishly expect to, there won’t be a lot of folks affected. I’m glad you’re alive, Ron.

  • April 14, 2018 at 11:51 pm Reply

    Good post Peggy, I lost my long ramble/ comment by leaving this page – I’ve said it before and will again, but not today.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 15, 2018 at 12:01 am Reply

      Thanks for this and your spoken version, DrBob.

  • Gail Waters
    April 15, 2018 at 6:39 pm Reply

    Your husband, Bob, said something profound in one of our group sessions that I have never forgotten. Life presents many opportunities to grieve and we need to learn to do it right because it is all in preparation for the final grief, death. Those were not his words exactly, but it is the essence. The losses mount up and come nearer to us as we get older and our resilience in dealing with them is what propels us to go on. Peace and thank you for thie piece..

    • Peggy Payne
      April 15, 2018 at 11:53 pm Reply

      Bob was pleased to hear that he’d been helpful, Gail. Thanks. I’m not sure I’ve learned how to “do it right” yet.

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