HAVE you ever visited a psychotherapist once, never gone back, and realised it was the best hour you could have ever spent? I’ve had one of those experiences. And the older gentleman taught me the difference between depression (which I thought I had, but didn’t) and grief (which I had). Sure, I was depressed, but…
Being depressed is intrinsically part of the grief process, and that can form into clinical depression, but importantly, the basis for the depression is the grief. Typically, when the grief is attended to, we recover. It takes months, if not a year or three or more, but we do recover if we’re being honest — if we’re wrestling with our stuckness.
Grief can feel like clinical depression, but thankfully we have a reason for being so depressed. Not all depression has such rationale.
About grief, pain is an indicator of reality; an important factor in not simply our plummeting, but a pivotal feature in our recovery as well. Especially when there’s more pain involved in remaining stuck than breaking free and moving forward.
“… pain [is] necessary to know the truth, but we don’t have to keep the pain alive to keep the truth alive.”
— Mark Nepo
Loss is etched in truth we cannot get away from. It leaves us stuck in a truth that has held us, embodied in love or a state of being we found so acceptable it came to be part of us.
Even though grief isn’t depression it certainly is possible that it could open the door to an extended season of life where we do have clinical depression. But one thing that can free us is knowing and remembering what started the cycle in the first place — an event, a sequence, a tipping point.
That event may have been a catalyst. It may have brought all our burdens to bear at once. It could have caused a breakdown, and a deconstruction of our identity.
Additionally, often grief leaves us with unanswered and unanswerable questions. It takes time to accept the hard things we cannot change. Grief is a journey of acceptance.
And grief certainly does challenge and change our identity. But the truth remains the same. When we can accept that truth as a reality and the pain is gone — though it will always remain as a sad reality — that is when our grief stages are complete.
Even in acceptance, reality bears scars of a pain that once was, a reality we know was once so real.
One thing we can know about grief is it is more tangible than classic clinical depression. One thing we can do about it is, embrace the future with such meaning from the past.