This is Us - The Good in “Wallowing”

In Season 2 Episode 12 “Randall’s New Job” there is a flashback of the family taking a trip to the mall. Kate needs a dress for a dance coming up, Jack and Kevin need new suits, and Randall wants to ask a girl who works there to the dance. As Jack and Kevin and shopping together they run into Miguel who shares that his ex wife got engaged last night and he is doing some retail therapy. Jack tries to encourage him push him out of his bad mood. Kevin and Miguel then start to give Jack a hard time for his sunshiny attitude. We see this mindset in Jack a lot. He often comes across as the fun parent and can sometimes avoid order or structure in the home, but he also doesn’t like for Rebecca or the kids to have negative emotions. When any of the kids feelings are hurt he quickly takes on the role of cheering them up. Now that Kevin is old enough to have his own opinions on this he, along with Miguel, share that he finds this annoying. Jack then tries to prove to them that he can wallow and they decide to go eat at the food court together. We can still tell that Jack is uncomfortable sitting in the complaints and unhappiness with them. 

While having someone around that can always see the good in things is a real bonus in life there is also value in having someone who can sit in your sadness with you. Culturally, we see the emotion of happiness as so much more purposeful than sadness. The truth is, sadness has some much needed information to send us as well. Sadness signals to us that we have experienced some type of loss and then gives us the energy to grieve. If we never admit to ourselves that we are sad the grief over loss will build up inside us causing depression and anxiety. Through his struggle with alcohol, we see Jack experience both depression and anxiety. In Jack’s unwillingness to sit in sadness - the sadness of the type of relationship he had with his dad, the sadness of losing his brother, the sadness of his baby dying, and the sadness of struggles in his marriage he piled up grief inside and most likely caused other problems for himself. 

Jack’s unwillingness to entertain sadness causes another problem in his life. It keeps him unable to connect with people he cares about. His friend Miguel just needs someone to listen to him complain about his ex wife marrying someone else, in other episodes his kids have just need to cry over their hurts instead of being cheered up immediately and Rebecca has needed him to grieve with her on many occasions as well. Eventually these relationships were mended but think of how different things could have been if Jack could have cried with or at least sat with the ones he loved while they cried. Listening to sadness has great benefits for us because once we acknowledge it and let ourselves grieve the emotion starts to dissipate. 

Some Things to Consider:

1. Are there times that you avoid sadness thinking it is a weak emotion? How might you give yourself permission to feel sadness so that you’re able to grieve and move on?

2. Is there someone in your life experiencing sadness who you have simply tried to encourage and cheer up? Could there be worth in sitting in their sadness with them at least for a little while?