Disney’s recent hit “Inside Out” touched upon a topic that is very real to the millions of families who relocate each year. In summary, a mother, father, and their pre-teen daughter, Riley, relocate to San Francisco for the father’s new role there. Riley struggles as she leaves her Minnesota life behind and looks to build a similar life in San Francisco. Her primary emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) go into hyper-drive as she adapts to the change. Joy, once the predominant emotion in Riley’s life, begins to lose her grip of control, and Sadness starts to take center stage. Much of the film is the emotions fighting this change, trying to force Joy back into the captain’s chair while pushing Sadness away. Riley doesn’t want to admit to her parents (or herself) that she is struggling; but it’s clear to viewers that she is.
Ultimately (spoiler alert!) Riley’s emotions realize that Riley needs Sadness. She needs Sadness to let her cope with her new situation, let her process the change and loss, and to help her in working through it. This doesn’t mean Sadness will have the reigns on her emotional state forever, but it does mean that without Sadness, it will be hard for Joy to return. The film’s end is a poignant reminder of our aversion to Sadness and the contradictory importance of it for our overall emotional health.
Moving is listed as one of life’s biggest stress-inducing events that can take place in a person’s life. No matter your age, moving means a disruption of the status quo. Of a life where you were comfortable knowing where to go, what to do, and who to turn to when in need. Grieving this ‘loss’ of comfort is not only natural, but also expected and incredibly necessary. Sadness and discomfort can hit at any time. You (or your child, teen or spouse) may be six months into a move and enjoying the new city, when suddenly the discomfort hits. “This doesn’t feel like home,” or “this doesn’t feel good anymore.” A period of (or many occurrences of) discomfort is typical but is certainly not indicative of the move being a mistake—it is just part of the process.
Now, is this an excuse to wallow in despair and negativity? To sit idly by and not make an effort to get to know the area and meet people? Absolutely not. And we are certainly not advocating for such a mindset. Much of your future success in a new location will depend upon taking the initiative to explore, introducing yourself to others, attending events, and working to establish yourself again. Allowing yourself – amidst your sadness – to remain open, accepting, and flexible will help tremendously as you settle in and make a new home.
It is important to acknowledge that moving and transitioning your life is tough. And sadness is part of that. When those moments hit, allow them to come. Sit with it, mourn your loss, but remember to accept it as a temporary discomfort. Suppressing sadness doesn’t make it go away. On the contrary, it can make it last longer or appear at unexpected times. Allow yourself to both experience sadness and then try to have a good attitude as you work to settle in.
We often learn the most about ourselves during trying times. Specifically, what matters most to us and what we are capable of achieving. You will also learn that you are often more resilient than you previously believed, and how transformative and powerful a positive mindset can be. Additionally, you will be able to use the experience of your pain during this time to better relate to others who may feel similarly in the future. This is a huge gift.
Many people believe that bravery is for the outwardly strong who show no signs of weakness. In reality, courage is not about the absence of feeling scared, nervous, or sad; but rather, courage is acting in spite of those feelings: putting yourself out there to meet new people, experience new things, and make the best of everything this new place has to offer. Sadness in moving (as is always the case) is not fun; but rest assured that it isn’t a sign that something has necessarily gone wrong. Be patient and accepting. Cut yourself some slack, and then set out to work through the discomfort to forge the life you want.
**For the purposes of this article, we are discussing everyday sadness, not clinical depression. If you ever feel that things are getting to be too much handle, don’t hesitate to reach out for help and talk to a medical professional.