by Wendy Keller, bereaved mother, sometimes joyful human
We were sitting at the restaurant, waiting for our meal, when he told me. I’ve known him for more than 3 years. He knew I buried my son and my daughter in 1991. The very same year, his daughter had died. Now he tells me. My heart welled with tears.
Then he said, “We all stay at low level depression after this type of loss. You just learn to live with it.”
I had never considered that before, but I would say it is true for me. I have a girlfriend who was sexually abused as a very young child. I’d say the same is true for her. I know a woman whose husband died and it is true for her. Life didn’t turn out as we’d hoped and planned. We imagine that other people have better lives. And that is the first mistake that creates our suffering.
Life didn’t turn out as we’d hoped and planned. We imagine that other people’s have. And that is the first mistake that creates our suffering.
I get a lot of emails from those of you who read my blogs, and people come up to me after I speak on “Healthy Ways of Coping with Life’s Challenges”. I know that a LOT of us think that “everyone else” or “most people” are living happier lives than we are. I’ve learned this: that’s an illusion. Most people’s lives turn out far differently than they’d figured they would at 14 or 15 years old.
What can you do about it? Is depression mandatory? How do you cope with this reality?
1. Recognize that everyone suffers in their own life, even if you don’t see it; even if you think they’ve got it easy; even if you don’t think it’s tough compared to your life. For one person, losing a pet is just a fact of life – for someone else, it might take years to heal their broken heart; in most cases, the two parties getting divorced each have a very different emotional reaction – one may be relieved and happy; the other sad and afraid. Everyone suffers their own pain at 100%.
2. Force yourself to focus on the positive you have left, however hard that is, for as long as you can. I hate that one! It’s hard. It’s almost impossible when you’re in the thick of it. But what you focus on becomes true in your reality. If you focus mostly on your pain and sadness, you are going to see more pain and sadness. If you focus on even little pleasant things – a good cup of coffee, a bird singing at dawn – you will crack your own negative shell and start to take in the first fresh breath of relief. Yes, even if your grief is so overwhelming you believe you may as well die. You must do this if you want to get out of the morass of anguish. Like it or not.
3. Give up your certainty that things SHOULD BE another way. It’s amazing what acceptance can do! “What you resist, persists.” The genie ain’t going back in the bottle. My children are not going to be magically resurrected this afternoon. A lost love isn’t likely to suddenly call and say, “I was so wrong!” Your amputated leg isn’t going to spontaneously grow back. Success is what you do with your life AFTER the torpedo hits.
Get over it and get on with it. It hurts. It sucks. Life isn’t fair. You can be depressed or you can decide to make the best of it. Action creates reaction – move toward making it a tiny bit better today than it was yesterday. One day, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come.
Even if my friend is right and low grade depression is the new normal for bereaved parents or others who have suffered greatly, it doesn’t mean that we must remain inert. Seize your own life in your own hands and force yourself to take a step – however small – in the direction of healing, in the direction of your dreams, in the direction of your joy. Start today. Start now.
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