By Steve Wickham
Whenever we’re stuck in a funk it may mean very little to us whether it’s grief or full-blown depression, but at just the time in our lives when we’re looking for a turning point, we’ll take anything that will help us turn that corner.
Sometimes knowing important information about WHAT and WHY we’re suffering helps us turn a vital corner on the long journey of recovery. And we don’t realise how important these things are until they’re instrumental in the turning point.
I recall the moment my mind was opened regarding key differences between grief and depression. The trouble is depression is a large part of grief and every experience of depression involves a great degree of grief.
Grief is full of pain and anguish like that will take us directly to depression when we’re honest enough or not strong enough to not pretend that things aren’t like they were.
With regular departures into denial, anger and bargaining, we get a general reprieve from the depression, and in grief there are also fleeting flights into acceptance — the authentic, though usually temporary, reprieve from all of grief’s pain.
The causes of grief are many, of course, and they all stem from loss.
- Loss of identity when it has been ravaged by one or more of many things; usually those things outside us.
- Loss of opportunity when timing has been missed creating regret.
- Loss of dreams that floated away before it was realized, also manifesting in regret.
- Loss of loved ones, which is always a most visceral, heartbreaking loss.
- Loss of trust in a person, group or people due to betrayal or comprehensive disappointment.
- Loss of the capacity to respond well and bodily changes because of trauma.
These are just a few examples of an inexhaustible list. All of these sources of loss will entail much depression — entire days through to weeks and longer. And the depression of grief we suffer in loss mimics the real thing — we lose motivation, have no energy, our purpose is gone, sorrow morphs to dread as anxiousness redoubles the pain of depression.
Real clinical depression is an existential crisis that perhaps can be thought of as causeless. It can be such a conundrum and it can take a great deal of therapy to determine what the ‘losses’ are, remembering that unlike grief, the losses in depression are not so obvious.
Depression can certainly manifest through an abject lack of confidence, and is often joined with anxiety, or the other way around. But it can also be most inexplicable, which serves all the more to confound the sufferer and their loved ones all the more. Perhaps additional to the depression a person enduring loss feels is self-condemnation that they don’t know why they’re complaining so much or feeling so down and dysfunctional.
There are those, too, who suffer depression silently, always putting on a brave face, yet never receiving any healing, because they cannot face it. Often there’s no support structure there and no access to such support. Typically, men and women who have had to toughen up, which is a grotesque sin against every fibre of a person who seeks to be transformed.
The greatest and saddest irony is depression picks certain ones out and it really isn’t their fault. It’s an irony because we only get to see and accept this when we look at the truth with enough distance from our emotional selves.
What might seem like just another academic discussion isn’t. It’s important that we chart the causes, the symptoms, the reactions, the triggers. The more we learn, the more and the quicker we can heal.
Healing grief and depression are long-term ventures with many turning points along the way. It’s not arriving at a set destination that matters most, but the journey and even the trajectory of that journey.
Whenever we face anything tough in faith that all will be okay, our faith is fortified, and we do become stronger for avoiding avoidance. Wherever we have faced the lies we once told ourselves, we stand on the cusp of a powerful breakthrough.
Steve has been facilitating conflict resolution for twenty years, working as a registered safety practitioner in chemical manufacture, downstream petroleum, and ports initially, then subsequently as a pastor, counsellor and school chaplain.
Having experienced marital brokenness, his passion is marriage counselling. A Christian writer and blogger for over ten years, Steve has degrees in science, divinity (2), and counselling.
Steve married Sarah in 2007 and they have a passion for peacemaking. They have one son, and Steve has three adult daughters. Steve is also passionate about intrapersonal conflict, particularly within grief, since losing his son, Nathanael, in 2014.
Steve serves on the Board of the Pallister-Killian Syndrome Foundation of Australia (PKSFA).