Grief and Depression

A dear member of my church family passed away recently. He was a cornerstone in my community; he poured his life and love into my church, and into people and ministries far beyond the church walls. He was what one expects of a true Christian: someone who loved unconditionally the unloved, and who invested in the overlooked. He served with joy our community for decades before an aggressive cancer took him. He leaves behind a gaping hole in many hearts, especially in the hearts of those he mentored.

In this time of grief, I find myself wanting to withdraw and isolate. I already have depression, and I do not feel like I have the emotional energy to comfort others. I fear getting triggered and sinking into a dark depression pit. I have my own sadness to deal with, and I am plagued by the questions many have when someone dear dies. Why did a good man – a righteous man – die in such a horrible way?

Why would someone suffering from severe depression want to make themselves open to more sadness by sharing in others’ grief? Supporting others with their grief is no small ask, especially if one is vulnerable due to depression.

Yet Romans 12:15 says to “…mourn with those who mourn.” I didn’t feel like it, but I went to church last Sunday. There, they announced the passing of our church member to the congregation. This, of course, elicited tears all around. I found myself unable to restrain my tears, or to ignore those hurting around me. We hugged and comforted each other, as we choose to praise God anyway, and leaned into the hope of seeing this departed church remember again someday.

Instead of sinking into a season of deep depression, I let my sadness wash over me, and I embraced the shared grief of my church community. I started working through my tangled feelings instead of suppressing those feelings as is my habit. I drew strength from the comfort I received, and the fact that I was not grieving alone. Reaching out to share that grief with others is helping me to heal and move forward. What God says in 2 Corinthians 1: 4 is true: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

The lesson is not to hide from or suppress grief because I am afraid of the impact it will have on my mental health. Avoiding grief will, ironically, bring about the damage to my mental health that I fear. Avoidance may be the easier option in the short-term, but I know the difficult feelings will spring up later, ready to poison my soul, if I don’t work through this. I also find that working through my grief with others I love and trust, and who were experiencing the same grief, expediates the healing process. I have a pool of strength and comfort to draw upon instead of trying to heal myself (when I already have emotional scars from depression).

If you have suffered loss in your life recently, or long ago, may God comfort you and surround you with a loving community to help you through.

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