“There are wounds that never show up on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds”—Laurel K. Hamilton, Mistral’s Kiss
These last few weeks I’ve been sharing with you about clearing away the clutter, noticing that grief does change, allowing others to help and reminding you that your presence is always enough. Today, I feel it is also worth bringing up the topic of depression with the intent that we take notice that it can sometimes subtly grip our spirits and get in the way of moving forward. It is much easier to notice when someone else is depressed but it is very rare that we will see the same in ourselves.
Today’s quote gives me such a clear picture in my head of the pain that comes with depression and the strangle hold it can give to someone. I have often felt that depression has a negative connotation to it mostly because many have been ignorant in their understanding of what depression is all about. It is not a shame of failure or negativity. As I think many would agree, what have any of us really been taught as young people about grief, loss, understanding our feelings, let alone the confusion of depression?
I know this to be true for me and maybe for you as well that our example for handling loss and death was first learned by how our parents dealt with it and how they acted. Oftentimes, there was little, if any, discussion about what comes next. For a brief time family, relatives and friends gather and express condolences. Flowers, cards, and lots of food all around and then, after a few days, the barrage of well intended go home and then the silence sets in. Life goes on but for you, life has stopped you in your tracks and your world is completely upside down.
Is there any wonder that the subject of depression would be any different? When loss occurs and the pain is so profound and deep, unless we see it coming and have the tools to cope with it, depression has almost no choice but to show up and take over.
So what is depression and how can we handle it when it appears?
The dictionary defines depression as “A condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life; severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.”
When depression is present in this stage of grief, one begins to realize the true extent of their loss. There is no escaping the reality that their loved one is gone forever. Aside from what the dictionary defines depression as, there are other more common signs of depression:
Poor eating habits – weight loss/gain
Feelings of self-pity
Feelings of loneliness
These are just a few signs of depression and I’m sure if asked you could add some of your own. The good news about this is that depression as a result of loss for many is temporary and will last for however long one is navigating through the process of grief. As I keep stressing to you, there is no right or wrong about one’s feelings, they just are and there is no timeframe for grief. What is true about grief is that the feelings that come up are very normal for this process. Even though for many of us this may feel foreign and alien to our experience.
Depression becomes a concern when feelings of sadness, loss, anger, even denial begin to interfere with everyday life. When this occurs there may be more underlying issues beyond the loss that need to be addressed and one should seek professional help if weeks and months go by and there is no resolution to the severity of these feelings.
So how can one move through depression and find acceptance? Below is a list of suggestions to help:
Be kind to yourself – this craziness is temporary and being overwhelmed, scattered, distracted, angry, frustrated, weepy and sad are very normal responses
Think of something you can do for yourself – if the loss had not happened, what is something you can do even for just a short time that will bring you some joy, i.e. coffee with a friend, a movie, walk in the park, treat yourself to a manicure, listen to music.
Help someone else – there is no comparison to each other with loss. Pain is profound but what is very true is that helping someone else has a direct return benefit of helping yourself.
Talk about your feelings – when loss is present sometimes other people in our lives because of their own fears don’t know what to say or do for us. But don’t give up finding someone to talk to. Your feelings need to get out and be heard so surround yourself with trustworthy friends who will listen to you without judgment.
Write about your feelings – I will share with you that at one time writing anything down on paper about my feelings scared me. The fears of “what if someone reads my thoughts” stopped me each time. I’m happy to tell you that I no longer feel that way. Writing has become a friend to me. And I write regularly. There are times when I write daily and other times I write sporadically. The relief of emotions is what is so great about writing. Also, it is the most private space I have with me. No rules, no grammar, no input from anyone else. My time, my thoughts, my feelings. I can’t encourage you enough to consider trying this.
I think these ideas are enough to get started with for you or anyone you know dealing with depression. I would love to hear if anything in particular has been beneficial to you so please feel free to email any time.