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John Hilton III: It's Okay to Feel Sad

by | May 04, 2020

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of social media posts that go something like this, “I’m missing senior prom, but I know I shouldn’t complain…” or “We had a special trip planned that was canceled, but I know I’m lucky things aren’t worse…” or “I’m sad we can’t have a larger funeral for my dad, but I’m glad my mom is still alive.”

In each of these posts, the person is expressing some current sorrow they’re experiencing, but then discounting it by acknowledging that things could be worse. Sometimes, that’s a very healthy emotional strategy. But today, I want to focus on another healthy emotional strategy:

It’s okay to feel sad. Full stop.

If your friend tenderly told you about some of her regrets, would you ask her to stop whining? No, you would almost certainly take the time to listen and empathize with her. Do you treat yourself this well? We can allow ourselves to take the time to mourn over our lost opportunities.

It’s okay to be completely sad that you missed prom, your graduation you’ve worked on for years, or that you’ve been laid off your job.

It’s okay to feel a sense of loss when the temple marriage you’ve planned on since childhood literally cannot happen, even though you’ve finally found the person of your dreams.

It’s okay to feel frustrated because your last child had finally started school (and you were so happy!) but now all of your children are home 24x7, making it harder for you to reach some of the personal goals you were excited to work on.

It’s okay to be devastated by the fact that you weren’t able to witness the birth of your first grandchild.

Note this scriptural pattern:

  • Hagar wept (Genesis 21:16)
  • Abish was “exceedingly sorrowful, even unto tears” (Alma 19:28)
  • The children of Israel wept (Deuteronomy 34:8)
  • “The heavens weep, and shed forth their tears” (Moses 7:28)
  • Peter wept (Mark 14:72)
  • Nephi’s wife shed tears (1 Nephi 18:19)
  • Mosiah’s people “shed many tears of sorrow” (Mosiah 25:9)
  • Jesus wept (John 11:35)

Many more examples could be added, but perhaps this is sufficient to be clear—it’s okay to be sad. It’s often an important part of the healing process. In fact, Jesus said, “Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh” (Luke 6:21).

It’s hard to move forward until you’ve deeply acknowledged the pain you’re experiencing. You don’t have to brush it aside today and put on your brave face. As you take the time to listen to and mourn with yourself, as well as with trusted friends, over time you will find that you are ready to start moving forward. But for today, it’s okay to be sad.


Image title Over the past few years, Google searches for "anxiety" have increased by 50% and news headlines state that worry, stress, and depression are on the rise. Have you noticed this increase in your life or the lives of those you love? These challenges may be spreading, but they are not new. The scriptures speak of those who were "depressed," "greatly afraid," "worried," and experiencing "great anxiety." The scriptures also tell us that the solution to these struggles is found in Jesus Christ, "the founder of peace" (Mosiah 15:18).

John hilton faculty photo

John Hilton III

John Hilton III was born in San Francisco and grew up in Seattle. He served a mission in Denver, and got a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. While there he met his wife Lani and they have six children. They have lived in Boise, Boston, Miami, Mexico, Jerusalem and China. Currently, they live in Utah. John has a Masters degree from Harvard and a Ph.D from BYU, both in Education. John is a Professor of Religious Education at BYU.

John has published several books with Deseret Book, including The Founder of our Peace. John enjoys speaking at Education Week, and at many other events.  His education research has influenced policy both in the United States and internationally. John loves being with his family, doing humanitarian work, learning Chinese, and performing magic.

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