Thursday, August 21, 2014


Depression is always the leading edge of grief.  This is an important phase in recovery from significant loss.  This is the rebuilding time after a shattering experience and all the little bits and pieces that take so long to accept need to be put back together, often in a different configuration.  When people don’t know what they have lost they often get stuck in this awful place. It is that black place where shame and self-loathing override every rational explanation.  Any change is loss, wheather it is good change or bad change, and all loss requires some grieving.  Grieving is on a continuum, from the death of a loved one, all the way to “Oh rats, I lost my umbrella.”    The built in mechanism for dealing with this wide range of feelings is the grieving process, which is as necessary as any other human process.
Almost anyplace is preferable to grieving.  Grieving means feeling what was lost and reexamining the old vow to stay away from that place at all costs.   These old vows & choices have nothing to do with thinking but everything to do with survival strategies and tactics of a very young child.

It is a place where you feel like a fraud and every achievement, victory or success is just luck; no one could love someone like you because you are flawed with no hope of redemption.  This keeps you safe and from asking for anything.  This place keeps you safe from anyone getting close enough to see the real you, ugly, bad and worthless. 

Keeping frenetically busy and “on” all the time works amazingly well; it fools everyone, even sometimes yourself.  It is just when you slow down there is that black hole pulling you in.  This was Robin William’s style and when he slowed down he was faced with all those unarticulated, inexplicable overwhelming feelings that he had no understanding of and no skills to handle.

The flip side of busy is going very still, being quiet and withdrawn, that is also safe and people usually leave you alone.  The operative word here is alone, because that is all you believe you deserve.  It is the place of silence and despair.  Where the attempt to climb out of the pit just doesn’t seem worth the effort.  You look normal and go through the motions of daily life, but you just aren’t there.  You are deep in the pit.    

There are many ways out of depression, but only one resolution, or way to heal.  Why is this so hard and scary?  The short answer is that grieving is a change agent.  Once we start, there is no turning back.  We can never be the same.  That seems to be the purpose of grief, to create a path from one state of existence to another; a before and after.  There was life before my daughter’s death and after I buried her.  The only way I found to survive that pain and dislocation was to grieve out loud.  It was all about rebuilding my life and myself after the A-bomb.  Most people think grief is only about death but as I have said in other posts, all change is loss and demands letting go, grieving.

Some ways to grieve:
Crying is the most effective and the most difficult because crying is so all consuming.  Crying is also the fastest form of healing.. 
Walking and talking with a friend over time is healing.
Writing or journaling helps put into words the experience, poems, songs, anything to keep grieving.
Some people find drawing; scribbling or painting relieves that burden of pain and isolation.
Grief requires comfort and support.  That is usually found within friends, family, community or faith. 
Grief always takes longer then we want, it is important to let it happen.

The long answer is that deep grief changes our perspective and challenges everything we have believed and all our cherished philosophies about the meaning of life.  It realigns priorities and fundamentally alters how we relate to others and ourselves.  Grief always cuts through our carefully built defenses and drags up any unresolved issues to be dealt with or reburied.  Like Godzilla it tromps on the orderliness of our lives and leaves a trail of rubble.

It actually is scary because we don’t understand the intense, all-consuming nature of our own grief and just want to stop the pain and confusion.  Given all the possibilities of how the process can go awry, most people somehow manage to get through and recover.  Usually with grace and dignity.  It is a continual tribute to the human spirit, and I am always impressed.

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