Sadness as a developmental phenomenon in young women was discovered in a study designed to identify developmental transitions and the relationship of these transitions to mental health. Sadness is conceptualized as a pervasive feeling of disillusionment and unhappiness that influences the meaning of life events and decision-making. Field research and interpretive analysis techniques were used to observe, describe and analyse the life experiences of 25 volunteer participants. For most women in the study, sadness was found to be time-limited and perhaps had beneficial effects. Some women, however, were unable to resolve sadness and became depressed. Sadness can be an antecedent to depression. Sadness that is recognized and validated may facilitate reshaping of a woman's expectations, a form of cognitive restructuring. The transitional nature of sadness has important implications for women's mental health.