Dealing with Loss and Depression

It was around two months ago when I learned that my daughter was moving, along with her husband and two children to Chicago.  For the last nine years, Beth was living here in Orlando and we basically did life with them: saw them move three times, have two children, go through the ups and downs of the rough economic times.  And we were joined at the hip with Keller and Fiona, their two children.  When I heard that the move was confirmed, I actually wept and they were not tears of joy.  As I write this today, the pain is still there and my heart literally aches at times.  I already miss the fun of daily grandparenting and the joy of their joy in seeing us and knowing that they’re in for games, reading, excursions, and treats.  It’s a loss…

As I allowed these already-in-motion events to swallow me up, I noticed that emotionally this was taking a toll on me.  I developed the dreaded summer cold, and began to worry incessantly about things that didn’t deserve one bit of my mental and emotional energy.  I almost surprised myself one day when a friend asked how I was and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Depressed.”  I’m a therapist… I help other people through their depression.  I should have the answer for my own issues.  Was I really depressed, or was I just sad?  And why can’t I deal with these challenges with more emotional stability?  I’m not sure I have adequate and accurate answers to those questions.  But here are a couple of things that have helped: 

  1. When sad things happen, it’s OK to be sad. Too many times I can feel the pressure to rise above the fray and be positive and joyful when tough things are hapening. I began to give myself permission to feel sad, and I felt better not trying to force happy thoughts on an unhappy circumstance.
  2. Safe people to talk to are invaluable.  I just spent an evening with a good friend and we unloaded on each other our troubles and sorrows.  My friend had the wisdom to not try to cheer me up or attempt to fix things.  He just listened as I released some of my pain on him.  It helped…
  3. Routine is helpful.  Getting back into healthy routines (work, exercise, spiritual disciplines, social activities) is therapeutic and emotionally restorative.  Sitting around moping is not!  One step at a time is good advice when it comes to getting back to normal.
  4. Patience needs to be developed and used liberally.  I’ve found I cannot be in a hurry when it comes to feeling better emotionally.  I must to allow my circumstances to be used by God to teach me what it is I’m in need of learning.  This is where we grow in wisdom.
  5. Last, I need to plan for the future.  I need to take my new reality head-on and determine how it is I wish to lead my life now.  What needs to change?  What needs to stay the same?  Dealing with change in my life using older priorities is not necessarily going to meet the legitimate needs that I have.

The final realization for me is that God is in the process of working in my life to lead me in the direction in which He desires me to go.  Even though I am sad and dealing with loss, those issues sharpen my sensitivities in areas that are in need of growth.  Sometimes growing is painful, but afterward, in the words of the author of Hebrews, it yields the “…peaceful fruit of righteousness.”  So it’s OK to be sad, and loss will never be gotten over easily.  But there is a larger story being told, and it’s going to have a great ending!

Jim Keller

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