A passing depression is just that: Passing. Chronic mental distress cries for professional help or a community directed by professional help. If you need real help, choose carefully.
Case in point: A friend was suffering anxiety and depression during the 20th week of her third pregnancy. Her obstetrician recommended a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist greeted her: “ Well! I see you have no sexual problems.”
Moreover, because her obstetrician believed that labor induction was the way to go, it’s no wonder he had no idea whom to recommend to my friend. She called me, half crying, half laughing. It was then that I learned about the obstetrician’s version of parturition: By all means, induce at thirty-eight weeks; let’s not make the mommy wait for a fully developed fetus.
And there’s a lot of that stupidity going around.
This sidebar is only to illustrate the importance of locating real help. With all the information on the internet, one would tend to believe that through perusing material and asking a lot of questions, one may be educated enough to be one’s own advocate. And wise enough to know when to seek help, physical or mental.
All of the above pales in comparison to the death of children.
Whether we have had children who died, that experience offers us only a small entrance into the pain of others. Each trial - and such loss is a trial - is very individual. Some agony may be accommodated by joining a group also suffering pain - not the same pain - but close. It is useful to recognize the importance of community or perhaps only one person who hears what we feel. We cannot expect anyone exactly to experience our experience.
What has never made sense to me are those who rale against God. Why cut out the only Person Who understands our suffering completely, whether it is through the Christ or not?
When I asked the canon of a cathedral, “How can anyone be angry with God?” he laughed. Laughed! I echoed his laughter because it was catching. He said, “I’ve been mad at God a number of times.”
Relating to God as Father had escaped my young mind until 1960, but that’s another story. It is almost impossible to relate to God the Father if one has not had the happy experience of a loving father. Fathers who are not loving are often the result of having no real contact with their own fathers - generation unto generation. Today in some societies there is much emphasis on being a loving father. In my day, it was enough that the Man of the House was able to support a family with food if only to satisfy society.
When I couldn’t attend a funeral, I asked a friend to represent me. She said, “Oh! I wasn’t planning on attending. I don’t do funerals. I wouldn’t know what to say.”
How can we know what to say when no words can possibly serve to console anyone who will never again experience a beloved spouse, child or best friend? The Jewish comfort of “sitting Shiva” seems to me to be a good way of sharing, recognizing the needs of others. Shiva means “seven days,” and the mourning and support are fed by memories and, of course, food. Even those who would rather be alone are (sometimes) better off surrounded by family and friends. Suffering shared is often suffering lightened.
If there is a parent who “gets over” the death of a child, I’ve not encountered him or her. Being sensitive to the grief of others is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. According to some, there are states of grief including denial and, before death, bargaining with whatever god we hope is listening. Learning how the bereaved is “taking it,” is helpful. That said, not everyone is created to be a therapist, so tread lightly.
I do not specialize in grief therapy, but I’ve noticed that if we can open ourselves to letting the grieving talk, just talk, about the child or parent or spouse - or pet, for that matter - the outpouring of memories, particularly funny incidents, do well to relieve some of the pain. Eventually.
Those who continue to clutch pain to their bosoms are most often afraid that if they forget that person who is no longer alive - heaven forbid breaking into laughter - guilt arrives on winged feet. Guilt is perhaps the most useless emotion ever invented.
Once we equate Guilt with Pride, a ray of sunshine appears. The thing is: None of us is that important. Take it to the Lord in prayer . . . is from Matthew’s gospel and written in the 19th Century. Whoever is our go-to god, once we realize that none of us is so all-fired special, we can let go, rest in the belief - or even knowledge - that there are many things, even many feelings, that we do not control. Feelings are just that: We cannot legislate emotion.
My mother would drive me batty with: “Oh, dearie! You don’t need to feel like that.”
Translation: It was not necessary for me to fret over what was insignificant to HER.
While I may not have pulled that one on my children, I’m sure they could share all the other parts of me that they couldn’t stand. I hope I’ve heard and accepted their complaints. You’d have to ask them. Fortunately for me, you don’t know who they are.
Aside for being sentenced to jail or prison for a crime wherein we have been judged guilty by law - or on the lighter side - admitting that we were incorrect, even wrong, to the person on the receiving end, is enough. Enough! Let it go. If the recipient of your “wrongness” can’t or won’t let it go, then let it be on him. You’re free to go. Free!
Regrets solve nothing.
The French say, Non, je non regrette rien, the words resulting in a song made famous by Edith Piaf.