Grief-related depression can be a frightening thing to experience. It can be unlike anything you have ever experienced before, and its manifestations can be so different from your “normal” way of life that you wonder if you are turning into some kind of zombie.
“If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas …“ Job 6:2-3
Another frightening thought is that it might never go away – that this is what life will be like from now on. But, rest assured, you are not turning into a zombie, and these feelings will not last forever. Women have the greatest tendency toward depression – although it also affects men. Men tend to “cave” and hide their depression, while women are more open about it. Most people who suffer a significant loss experience some form of depression, mild to moderate, and it is simply part of your psyche trying to adjust to a horrific event. Depression is a normal part of grieving, but it can actually be a dark cloud that has a silver lining. It can teach us valuable lessons and, when it has lifted, leave us stronger than it found us.
Several notable people in the Bible went through depression: Moses, Job, Elijah, Jonah, and the writers of the Psalms - all were touched by depression. It is not in itself a sin to be depressed, rather it is the lowest point of grieving, the turning point where you finally come to terms with your loss and begin to accept it. From this point on, grief recovery begins to move more quickly and in a more positive direction. It’s like climbing out of a deep pit into sunshine and freedom; a weight lifts and you begin to believe that you really will recover from this grief.
Some suggestions for coping with life when you are feeling grief-related depression:
Talk to a trusted friend, close relative, pastor or counselor
Find a support group who can walk beside you through this time (Griefshare is a wonderful support group www.Griefshare.org. Enter your zip code and click on ‘Find a Group’ – there are several groups in Bakersfield)
Be sure and get enough rest. Adequate sleep is essential when going through depression. Contact your doctor if you feel you need a sleep aid.
Eat a healthy diet. Don’t let your appetite dictate your diet – eat what you know your body needs. See a nutritionist (or research online) for advice.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect too much from yourself right now. Your depression leaves you with a diminished capacity. Don’t push yourself too hard – keep your schedule open, with time for rest, relaxation, recreation, creative endeavors, meditation, prayer, and crying. Crying is therapeutic!
Don’t ever put a timetable on your grief. You will be over it when you are over it. You cannot rush grief. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you that your grief is taking too long and you should be over it by now. Balaam’s donkey had more sense than they do (Numbers 22:21-33)!
Be aware of some possible warning signs of major depressive disorder, such as:
Abnormal depressive mood
Abnormal loss of all interests and pleasures
Significant appetite or weight disturbances
Abnormal or poor concentration
Abnormal morbid thoughts of death
Symptoms like these that persist for more than three months after your loss should be examined by a professional. Note: if you are having suicidal thoughts at any time, please contact a professional for help and spiritual counsel immediately.
I want to end this discussion with a list of things we can learn from walking through depression. Remember the silver lining in the dark cloud of depression? This is it!
From depression we can learn that:
God is bigger than we ever imagined, and He is in control - we are not. God sees the big picture of our life – we do not. God has allowed this grief into our lives, not as a punishment, but because he loves us, and this is His process of preparing us for heaven. 1 Peter 1:6, 7, “…you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine…”
The children we do have are nothing short of a miracle and are precious beyond measure. So what if they stain our carpet, break our favorite knick-knack, keep us up half the night with colic, bad dreams, a high fever, or a broken heart, get only a ‘C’ in arithmetic, aren’t very good at sports, drive us crazy with their “Why” questions, complain about our rules, our cooking, the way we dress, and take us for granted sometimes? In the grand scheme of life, this is just small stuff. We learn to quit sweating the small stuff and treasure our children. Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a gift from the LORD, a reward from him.”
We can offer comfort to other people because we have been through suffering ourselves. Other people can benefit from our experiences as we come alongside them in their grief. Other people need us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 “[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble...”
We are not alone. Other people are there to reach out to us and comfort us if we let them know we need comfort and are open to them. Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens…”
There is life after depression - an even fuller, deeper, richer, more meaningful, more vibrant, and more significant life. I will never be the same – my old “normal” is gone, and I am a new person with a “new normal.” It is similar to what is described in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Only two things last forever – God and people. Love and invest in those two things and you won’t be disappointed. 1 John 4:11, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”