Okay, so yesterday I gave some straight up advice based on my experiences with depression. But I think advice tends to go in one ear and out the other unless it is connected to stories. We all have stories of our lives, some good some bad. But we connect through these stories in ways that we don’t by giving or receiving advice, or arguing the issues. So I realized you may need to understand the context that is behind the advice.
First a word on grieving. Not all depression is caused by the grieving process, at least that limited to the people we have lost, but it is quite common. Now supposedly it only becomes a problem if you get stuck in that phase of the process. I really think grieving had a lot to do with my depression in my teens. I mean, my own thought process at the time was focused on my social life, or the lack thereof. However, at the same time my dad was having small strokes, which at first only reduced his cognitive functions somewhat. Eventually he was forced to retire, while only in his 50s, which meant we had money concerns as ours was pretty much a one income household, and two of us were still at home. He died when I was twenty.
Now the family approach to this was pretty much to just move on with our lives and hope everything would work out okay. On the surface, it worked fine, but underneath it was really simply denial, again part of the grieving process. The problem was, it wasn’t fine and refusing to talk about it meant that the emotions went underground and came out in the form of depression. At least that’s the way I see it now. I can only wonder how different life could have been if there had been someone I could have talked about my fears with. Honestly, it was only after my mom died nearly 30 years later that I felt I was given permission to grieve. At that time, I took an entire year and processed all sorts of things from my past that had basically never been dealt with at all. The experience was very freeing.
The other reason I think of grief in terms of depression is that years ago, our church started a class for people dealing with depression. I didn’t go, because at the time I was not feeling particularly depressed. But what I heard about it after a while made me think that the class was really a grief support group. It seemed that most of those who went had recently lost loved ones. Apparently the class was a great help in dealing with all those emotions. At the time though, I wondered what they would have done with someone who had no readily apparent reason to be depressed. That was how I saw myself, as someone who could be depressed often with no apparent reason at all.
Now of course, looking at it another way, you could say someone was grieving other types of losses. Perhaps someone is grieving the loss of a job, or a relationship that they hoped would lead to marriage, or a marriage that could not be sustained. They might even be grieving the loss of a dream that seems quite unattainable. In all those situations, a shoulder to cry on might make the difference between being stuck in depression and being able to move on to acceptance. Sure, there are some who have been depressed so long, that it becomes their retreat. But in most cases, when we take a loving approach of hearing someone out and encouraging them to step out in the faith that God will heal them in the process, we ease their suffering. Isn’t that what we are called to do, to weep with those who weep?