Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Embracing the Depression in Grief

There is not much room for ritual space in this life. People are too busy—fearful of becoming bored with it. But it is a vital place sometimes.
It is essential to be there, to stay there, in order to grieve appropriately.
This is because most reactions to grief, those imposed by fear, implicate us in conflict—usually with ourselves. Times like these we look to escape the pain. We don’t like the conflict.
Ritual space, regarding the season of grief, is that open, painful place where the truth lies. Where we don’t escape from pain, but just stay there, enduring what we can learn of it, suffering well, we stand to grow. This is no sadistic standing ‘in it’. It is not bad for us to stay in this bad place. It is for our good that we can feel all we need to feel, but with support; and, to cry out to God in it.
Ritual space, regarding the season of grief, is a necessary place where the truth is faced. Much of our grief is like a dance around this painful, yet healing, ritual space. In our denial, bargaining and anger we resist the ritual space, but in depression we stay in that space, and only via our depression can we enter into the realm of acceptance—grief’s final frontier.
Two Ways We Deal with Grief
Implied above, we handle our grief by either moving away from the truth in our denial, bargaining and anger, or we move toward it in depression. Only as we wrangle with the depression do we move on, eventually, in the direction of acceptance.
When we are able to hold the ritual space—to not escape the truth in the pain—and just sit there—to deal with what comes up, in truth—we enter our depression gladly.
This seems a very strange concept. How would we enter our depression gladly?
When we rally against the pain, by denial and bargaining usually, we resist the necessary steps to get better. Sometimes we are not ready. That is okay. Every grief has its own path. There is no rush to get there.
Denial, bargaining, and anger all have their role in the grief process.
Yet, until we can handle our depression we will not get better. Ritual space is that place we enter where there is no escape from the depression. In this space we simply ‘be’. And as we confront the full force of the pain we learn it is not that bad after all. This is because we have prepared ourselves stoically for it. In the ritual space itself is healing. It is closeness with God.
The depression phase in grief is very important. It is vital to healing. Holding open space for our depression is necessary in becoming whole again. It’s where we face the truth and gradually adjust.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: vharry.files.


  1. Very interesting thoughts that I have not considered before. Often when I read the Psalms I think that if David had lived in this day and age everyone would have encouraged him to get a anti depression pill (so common now). I remember when I went through a personal time of emotional pain the Lord kept telling me to "embrace the pain" it was such a strange thing but I did get through it and learned much from it. Ecceliastics tells us there are different times and seasons. We tend to want only the happy ones. That's not real life.

  2. The best part of connecting with our pain is it 'enlightens' us to the vast shades of pain elsewhere, also. Thanks Carol.


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