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When I was in middle school, my best friend and I would spend hours in her basement bedroom—lights off, candles on—listening to sad music.
Some days, this was passive listening; we’d just put on a mix CD and let the sad melodies flow. But other times, we’d rummage through our collections looking for the sad song—the one that perfectly connected to whatever family issue or body insecurity or friend conflict or boy drama (more often than not, it was boy drama) we were going through.
We knew our search was successful when the floodgates opened, and we found ourselves sharing our feelings through tears.
To some people, this might sound depressing, but when you’re an emotional teenage girl, this is therapy.
And as an adult, this is what it looks like (sometimes) to sit with our sadness.
I recently saw a Reel on Instagram that explained the science behind why sad songs make us feel so good:
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What is comes down to is that sad songs can actually improve our mood because they make us feel like someone is empathizing with our feelings, bring up memories that make us feel connected, and help us feel less alone while also sharing ways to move through our pain.
In the name of connection, I recently asked our readers: What’s your go-to song when you want to sit with your sadness and let the tears flow?
We received over 2,000 responses, all of which I should really one day compile into The Ultimate Sad Song Playlist for the days we need a dose of empathy and a damn good cry.
But in the meantime, here are 18 songs that just might help you connect with your own sadness:
1. “Haven’t listened to it in years but ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M.” ~ Honey
2. “Ave Maria” by Celine Dion
3. “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell
4. “My youngest son, who is now 19, says he can’t hear ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay without crying. I used to play it years ago when I was going through a tough time, and now that he’s older, he says he knows what it must have meant to me. It’s a beautiful thing when your children begin to see you, not as just a parent, but an individual person.” ~ Caroline
5. “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds
6. “‘Fire and Rain,’ every time. Reminds me of my best friend who died suddenly way too young.” ~ Cynda
7. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
8. “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles
9. “‘1,000 Oceans’ by Tori Amos used to have me in tears at work every day when KBCO played it on rotation.” ~ Kristina
10. “The Dance” by Garth Brooks
11. “So many, but ‘Unchained Melody’ from The Righteous Brothers does it for me every time.” ~ Vanessa
12. “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses
13. “‘The Rainbow Connection’ just because it’s so sweet and so beautiful.” ~ Julie
14. “God Only Know” by The Beach Boys
15. “Always” by Bon Jovi
16. “Every time I listen to ‘Dance with my Father’ by Luther Vandross I burst into tears. I always remember my father and I used to be buddies when I was a child, but growing up we didn’t have a good relationship til his last breath.” ~ May
17. “She Used to be Mine” by Sara Bareilles
18. “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas
My best friend passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, and while we probably listened to thousands of sad songs in that basement bedroom, whenever I think of her and that time in my life, the song that always pops up for me is “Breakdown” by Mariah Carey featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, which makes me laugh and cry at the same time. And what’s sweeter than that?
I miss you, Jenn.