The Emotional Intelligence of Sorrow

ByCindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C.

The Emotional Intelligence of Sorrow

emotional intelligence sorrow leadership development

The feeling of Sorrow is designed to help you grieve your losses. When you don’t give yourself permission to grieve, you’ll turn into an emotionally hardened person and become indifferent to those around you. Sorrow differs from sadness. Sadness arises when you have to face an ending. Sorrow arises when you have a loss in your life… a loss that you can’t get back, ever. If you’ve lost someone important in your life, you know the feeling of sorrow.

I’ve experienced sorrow a couple of times, and those were definitely the most painful experiences in my life. One of those deeply painful times was when my dog passed. He was my companion for 12 years. I have emotion arising as I write this even though he passed over five years ago. (That’s when you know it’s sorrow!) He was with me through so many events in my life… completing graduate school, getting divorced, getting married again, and going through another divorce. In addition to being my quasi-therapist, he was also my travel buddy. He and I traveled in my Ford Explorer from Wisconsin to the East coast to explore a possible move to North Carolina in my late 20’s. After realizing how d?#@ hot and humid it was there, I decided to move to the West coast instead. I packed up the U-Haul, hitched it to the back of my Explorer, and we headed to Portland, OR. In a year’s time, my dog had traveled 3000 miles with me and swam in two different oceans. Years later, he was there to welcome my one and only child home. They soon became best buds.

In addition to being with me during so many important moments in my life, I was also there for him. He was a German Shepherd… enough said. He got in so much trouble, giving me the first of my gray hairs. I was his protector as much as he was mine. He loved to chase anything that ran and would catch it, if possible. I had to apologize to several cat-owners as they came out of their houses to find their cat up a tree and my Shepherd with his teeth bared at the bottom. One time, he ran into a neighbor’s house as she stood in the doorway on the phone. Unfortunately, she must have let her parakeet out of the cage for the afternoon because a few moments later, out came the bird into the wild blue sky with my dog right behind. I don’t think the neighbor noticed because she was still on the phone, so I high-tailed it into my house with my dog and didn’t come back out for a long time.

When it came time to say goodbye to my dear pet, I decided that I wanted him privately cremated. My gracious sister coordinated all of the details with my vet. I kept his ashes in the paw-print container on a bookshelf in my bedroom for a year and a half before I was ready to spread his ashes and say goodbye forever. Grieving can take years because the loss is so great in one’s life… and that’s okay. After five years, it gets better. Alternatively, if I would have just said, “Well, he’s gone. Dogs don’t live as long as humans. It’s just the way it is” and didn’t recognize or appreciate the meaningful connection we had, I would have buried my grief. And, I’m sure that a part of me would have become closed off as a result. That is the purpose of Sorrow… to truly grieve our losses and process the deep emotional pain associated with the loss.

In our rat race society today, I don’t think we give ourselves the time to feel our feelings and fully process the events in our lives. Everyone is so quick to move on because we can’t afford to slow down or miss a beat. That is unfortunate. Some people (as well as pets) have significantly impacted our lives and when they are gone, it really hurts. There is no one or no thing that can replace the essence of that relationship and what they brought into our lives. It’s a loss that is honored by the level of grief it invokes.

Next week, we’ll explore what feeling scared means. It’s a normal, uncomfortable feeling that has something to tell you…

This blog post was provided by Cindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C. from Anakh Leadership Coaching LLC.  We specialize in developing business leaders and professionals by increasing their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and overall effectiveness thereby increasing professional success and personal satisfaction in their lives.  For more information, please go to

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About the author

Cindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C. administrator

As a Certified Spiritual Life Coach, I specialize in emotional and social intelligence coaching for business leaders and key managers to increase effectiveness and overall satisfaction in both business and personal arenas. I provide one-on-one coaching in person or over the phone.