La Tristeza: Why we should be okay with Sadness


Not once have I been consoled by an adult who tried to rush me through sadness by telling me that I’m fine. Nunca he encontrado consuelo en las palabras de un adulto cuando me dice, “Ya pasó,” en su impaciencia al escuchar mi tristeza.

“You’re okay” is the last thing I want to hear when I’ve fallen, físicamente o espiritualmente, and I know for a fact that I am not okay. “Ya pasó” quiere decir que para ese adulto, ya pasó. Para mi, no ha pasado hasta que yo diga que ha pasado. Only I know when I’m fine.

When I was very young I ran, barefooted, right onto the tip of a toothpick. It lodged deeply into the bottom of my foot. Since I was not close to home, my friend’s mother pulled it out and washed my foot. As I cried and blood spurted, she told me that it was over, that it didn’t hurt anymore, that it couldn’t possibly still hurt that much. She wished that I would just stop crying, but in response, I cried harder. Hoy en día me pregunto a mi misma, cómo puede ser que ésta mujer, ésta mamá, no pudo ver el dolor de mi pie, y la tristeza en mi corazón? Did she really believe that I could exaggerate the feeling of being impaled by a toothpick? Did she believe that pain vanishes when toothpicks come out?  

“Qué tienes?” es una pregunta que sumamente invita consuelo, amor, y hasta gozo, porque es una pregunta que muestra empatía. Dice, Veo que algo está mal: I see that you’re not ok. En el fin, lo que todos queremos es que un ser querido nos vea y nos acepte tal y como somos. Love is to wish to be seen and to get your wish. Sometimes, the quickest way to happiness is to sit with sadness.

Tristeza Sadness

When a child feels that their sadness is okay — that all of their feelings are okay — then they can gently release it. Si los niños sienten que no les haces caso y que quieres que ya superen su dolor, ellos pueden rebelarse más fuertemente. Más que nada, tristeza pasa en su debido tiempo, y por eso debemos respetar el dolor. La mayoría del tiempo, cuando alguien te dice que no llores, don’t cry, es porque ellos se sienten incómodos con la tristeza. We need to become more comfortable with sadness.

We were never taught to be sad properly, only somewhat shamefully. Una vez en preschool, mi hijo estaba llorando mucho y yo traté de mostrarle empatía en su tristeza. Le mostré a mi hijo un dibujo de unas caras con diferentes emociones, y lo dirigí a una carita que estaba llorando. Le dije, “Mira, aquí estás tú. La carita está llorando igual que tú. Que triste te estás sintiendo ahorita.” En cambio, su maestra le mostró una carita felíz diciéndole, “No, Sebastián está felíz!” En ese momento me dí cuenta que el mundo está al revés y todos se han vuelto locos. How can someone look at a crying child and tell him he’s happy?

Adults’ blindness must drive children crazy! Imagine what we felt when we experienced it as children — which we most likely did — imagine our confusion! Here I am, visibly crying, while the adults around me are telling me that I am, in fact, fine, happy even. We routinely teach kids that happiness is acceptable, that sadness is not. No wonder every adult who has cried in front of me has apologized for it. They are sorry for making me uncomfortable.

Rio Grande Mamis, we have a job to do. We have to allow our kids to be sad.

We must not try to cheer them up or distract them. Next time your child cries — even if you think it’s unreasonable — hold back. Watch them be sad and sit with the discomfort. Talk about it. Teach them what most of us never learned: it’s okay to be sad, and at least one adult will not try to “fix” them by denying or belittling their sadness.

Most important: talk about your own feeling. By doing so you will show them that los sentimientos de tristeza también son sentimientos válidos.

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Mariana loves sandwiches best, although going 95% vegan two years ago means having traded in ham and swiss for eggplant and roasted red pepper. Her boys, Santiago (5) and Sebastian (3), agree that sliced bread is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The boys are native Spanish speakers despite the fact that neither of their parents is, which has made raising them in Spanish a labor of love. Her commitment to raising bilingual children was made possible by being a first-generation Chilean-American born and raised in New York City, and by having spent two pre-kid years living abroad in Mexico City and Salamanca, Spain. Mariana moved to the RGV in 2010 and never wants to live anywhere else. While the kids are at school, Mariana is a full-time Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UTRGV. She has written for the New York Times, Womankind Magazine, and Yahoo Parenting.


  1. All so true. I say crying is a way to cleanse our soul. That’s why God made tear’s to clean up, take out all those feelings we just keep bottling up. No matter what others think I’m a crier. Others may think I’m weak but it’s actually what makes me stronger, happier and healther. Great read by the way. Thanks for sharing.


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