Over the last several weeks I have been trying to unpack the grief stages in the context of Covid-19. This week I want to take a closer look at depression.
Before I move forward, it is important to distinguish the difference between clinical depression and depression as recognized within the grief process. Clinical depression tends to be a long term battle. It’s onset can sometimes be linked to a particular event. Oftentimes it seems to overcome someone out of the blue. Someone can seemingly have a perfect life and still struggle with depression. It is often a result of a chemical imbalance and medication is helpful.
I believe we need to look at depression in the context of grief through a different lens. Depression in the context of grief is a deep sadness and despair that manifests itself as a direct result of a loss. The feelings are specifically linked to the loss experienced. Because of this difference between clinical depression and depression in the context of grief, it is important that we don’t just look at them differently, we need to deal with them differently as well.
Let me explain.
When I meet someone who is experiencing clinical depression, I will respond differently to them than I would to someone that is experiencing depression as a result of loss. With someone dealing with long term, clinical depression, I would be incredibly graceful. I would encourage them to see a counselor. I would make sure they don’t feel any shame in taking medication. I would celebrate with them on the days they got out of bed. I would rejoice with each small victory.
But if I knew you were feeling depressed as a direct result of a loss, I would be more forthright. I would be more direct because I don’t want you to get stuck there. Depression in the context of grief can easily lead to long term, clinical depression if you don’t deal with it properly. Because I know it’s a phase and I know that God created a way out, I would challenge you to keep moving forward – to take the next steps. God created grief as a pathway to healing. Each stepping stone, each phase, is designed to bring us closer to wholeness. The stones are big enough to step on, but not a great place to rest.
I’m willing to be wrong, but I think that as we are experiencing depression in the context of grief, we have to enter into the battle ready to fight and to not let it overcome us. I don’t mean that we ignore it or pretend that we are happy and grateful when truly our heart and mind is full of despair. We need to give it the space and place that it deserves and then move on.
We have lost so much in such a short amount of time and honestly this is just the beginning. WE NEED TO GRIEVE and we have a good reason to be sad and depressed. But decide how much space you are going to give it. Do you need a day to lay in bed? Then lay in bed for a day and then get up. Do you need to take a nap and cry? Then take a nap and cry and then text a friend to catch up. Do you need to tell someone about all the horrible things that are happening? Find a safe person. Tell them you just need to vent. Vent for 10 minutes and then move on.
But this is key, you can’t let your feelings guide your actions for long. You can’t wait to feel like getting out of bed before you get out of bed. You spend your allotted time there and then you get up, whether you feel like it or not. I HATE THIS ADVICE! It is the hardest advice that was ever given to me, but it has been the most effective. Do the next thing you planned to do, even if you feel depressed while doing so. Most of the time we just need to get out of our heads. If you don’t have plans, make some. Go serve someone. Call a friend that you know is alone. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Watch a funny show. Go for a walk. Every time we do that, we win, the depression loses its grip on us and we are able to continue on the path towards healing.
If you try to ignore the depression, it will consume you. But if you give it a space and a place, I think you will find that you will move through the phase much more quickly.
Right now, in the midst of Covid-19, I am vacillating between depression and acceptance.
A couple days ago I was really feeling depressed. I value feeling purposeful and my biggest struggle during this time is that I don’t feel purposeful. I’m not working. I work hard on my blogs. I write because I feel called to, but I wish I was called to something else. I really want to get a job with a non-profit, but recently I’ve felt convinced that every non-profit is probably going to run out of money and I’ll end up working at McDonalds for the rest of my life (nope, my thoughts don’t spiral at all). I had planned on walking with a friend. I walked into the bedroom and declared to Bryan “I am cancelling my plans and I am going to lay in bed for the rest of the day.” Bryan has gotten a bit used to my bold declarations over the years, so he calmly said “Just let me know what you decide to do.”
I layed down exasperated in our bed and cried. I laid there for about 10 minutes and realized, although this is what I want to do – this isn’t what I really need. So I got up and got ready for my walk. As I was getting my shoes on, Bryan asked “You’re feeling better I assume?” I replied “Nope, but I decided I didn’t want to be depressed for the rest of the day so I’m going on a walk. Even though I don’t feel like it.”
By the time I got home from my walk, I felt like a new person. I felt refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of the day
Friends, I could be wrong, but I’ll tell you what, I have grieved well and I have also done it horribly. These things have worked for me in the past as I have navigated my way through the depression that accompanies grief. So if you start to feel depressed, try these things, see what happens, learn from my mistakes. If they don’t help, set them aside. But no matter what you do remember that in the context of grief, depression is designed to be a phase – not a way of life.
So let’s keep on moving forward one stepping stone at a time,
Because there is more,