I had a dream about my oldet son's upcoming high school graduation. It devolved into me counting a large soda-cupfull of coins to pay for slices of cake and I woke up in tears for having wasted so much time doing that when I should have been just celebrating. I realized that even though I am incredibly proud of him and extremely excited to see where his life takes him (MIT is a real possibility), I am also deeply saddened by the end of his youth.

There will be no more hanging out with his robotics team and chaperoning trips to competitions. No more back-to-school nights to meet his teachers. I won't get to hang out at school with other parents -- my main source of friends, these past 15 years. My little buddy is growing up and becoming a man.

So, yes, while I am very, very happy about his impending graduation, I am also horribly, terribly saddened by it.

Is there a word for this? It might be used in this way:

I'm feeling very ---- about Jared's upcoming graduation.


I am ---- right now.


How are you? / I'm ----.


In response to the suggestion that this is a duplicate of this question -- that question was asking about being both happy and sad with the implication being that one is equally each. The sample sentence there was:

"At least we got one vote," she said with a (word I'm looking for) smile.

It seems that the sadness in that example is both justified and not overpowering.

Of the answers suggested for that question:

Bittersweet is the closest but is not really right. Bittersweet is happiness tinged with sadness; I'm looking for a word that means happiness that is nearly overpowered (or is overpowered) by sadness, when happiness is the appropriate response.

Ambivalence is "The state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone" (per Oxford) as @CJDennis pointed out. It doesn't really indicate anything about one emotion being stronger than the other; I would have always thought they would be more or less equal. The word I'm looking for, however, would specifically indicate that the Sadness dominates the happiness. Ideally, it would also imply that happiness is the expected/acceptable response.

Rueful doesn't fit; there's nothing to regret and nothing humorous.

I will note that, while not some chest-thumping manly man, I'm also not overly demonstrative, so that waking up crying about this is definitely significant; it's not just a case of wistfulness or something.


2 Answers 2


The word I would personally use is conflicted.

conflicted adjective [ after verb ]
confused or worried because you cannot choose between very different ideas, feelings, or beliefs, and do not know what to do or believe


  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 13:49
  • 1
    @Chenmunka I believe it does. Even though it doesn't completely cover the intended meaning, it is certainly "an honest attempt".
    – Joachim
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 14:20
  • 1
    It is potentially an answer but needs more explanation of how it relates: you are presumably conflicted because you don't know whether to feel happy or sad.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 13:00

Although I couldn' find a word for the sadness overpowering the joy, I found a word that I deem quite sufficient.

Ambivalence: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (such as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action"

  • Note that the OP mentions this word and explains why they do not believe it fits in their post.
    – user770884
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 12:25

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