depression, a natural part of grief

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing, spiritual formation 2 Comments

depression chalkboard

in his book a grief observed CS lewis says this about grief:

“no one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. i am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. the same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. i keep on swallowing. at other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. there is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. i find it hard to take in what anyone says. or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. it is so uninteresting…”

there is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.

the fourth stage of grief is depression, which can look and feel like an invisible blanket between us and the world. a fog. a darkness. a thickness. a can’t-seem-to-think-clearly, a numbness, a sadness, a scary am-i-really-ever-going-to-feel-alive-again-ness.

as we’ve been walking through the stages of grief this week centered on all different losses–people, relationships, faith, church, health, dreams. we’ve touched on denial, anger, and bargaining and now come to what i think is a place that is often weaved throughout grief and isn’t at all isolated as one-stop-along-the-way

depression can often set in when we experience loss.

for some, depression can look like lament, a crying out to God and the universe for relief.

for others, it looks like silence, despair, loneliness and a deep sadness that won’t relent.

we may even feel like a loser when we feel our loss, like something is wrong with us for feeling this way.

and for others it can feel like lethargy, lack of sleep, too much sleep, or any other ways we are just not ourselves.

those who have a propensity toward depression in the first place find it even trickier when the magnitude of the loss swoops in.  and those who may not have ever experienced depression in their lives can find themselves there as reality sets in.  our world is rocked and the sadness and disorientation sets in.

it’s easy for us to feel like depression is a state to be fixed, something to snap out of as soon as possible.

but the reality is that depression is a natural part of the healing process.

like anger, if we accept its realities and let ourselves feel what needs to be felt, eventually we can come to a new place. it’s true, it can be dangerous to stay in depression too long and let it ruin the life we have in front of us.  but at the same time,  it’s important to honor it as part of healing.

there’s nothing worse than someone waiting for us to “snap out of it” when we are filled with sadness.

one way to navigate depression is to let ourselves lament.

lament is a lost art; in many current cultures (and certainly in the bible), lament is a central part of life’s rhythms. it wasn’t frowned upon as being unspiritual or not-having-faith or being dramatic. it was considered a natural part of death and mourning and loss.  men and women alike were given permission to grieve, to feel, to cry out, to weep, to wail, to retreat.

one of the reasons i love the entire book of psalms is that it is filled with cries of lament, honest stories of struggle with life and God and faith and a willingness to cry out and not hold back.

in some of the different stations we’ve done over time, we have had various prompts and ways to express the condition of our heart during this stage.  one is to write a psalm, or create a lament collage, or do-anything-possible-to-honestly-share-what-we’re-thinking-and-feeling related to our loss.

here are some prompts for a some kind of short psalm or piece for lament:

God, right now, i feel…

my heart is heavy with…

my eyes can’t see…

my ears can’t hear….

my fingers can’t touch…

i’m so sad about…

i’m weary of..

i hope that once again i can feel….

the last thing people need to hear when they are in depression is “you’ll get over it soon”, “when are you going to stop being so sad?” “it’s time to move on.” “you just need to pray more, be grateful more, be ______ more.”  like each of these other stages, we have to find our way in our own time, holding on through the dark, borrowing hope from others that somehow dawn will break through.

it makes me think of the book a grace disguised: how the soul grows through loss by jerry sittser that i read years ago when a san diego-navy friend of ours died in a tragic accident. i don’t have a copy anymore to refer to, but i remember the story of him talking about how his grief (loss of his wife and children in an accident) felt like walking in the dark across the earth. eventually, when we keep walking, we come to a place where the sun is rising.

sometimes during depression, we can’t even walk. we crawl. but eventually, light peeks through again.

tomorrow is the last post in this series: acceptance.