Mental Health

Topic Tuesday: Sadness, Grief, and Depression

How often have you or someone you know said something like this?
I’m sooo depressed. I didn’t get ____________.
__________ happened. Now I’m feeling depressed.
What about things we say to someone who’s grieving the loss of a loved one, the betrayal by a loved one, or the loss of a dream?
Time heals all wounds.
They’re in a better place.
It’s all for the greater good.
Be patient, something better will come along.
When a door closes, a window opens.
Have you or someone you know said these things to someone who is actually experiencing depression?
I don’t know why you’re depressed.
You have ____________going for you/in your life.
Others are dealing with so much worse.
Stop being so negative all the time and think good thoughts.
If, like me, you’re someone who is experiencing or has experienced depression, these phrases are all too familiar, very hurtful, and extremely triggering. The same is true if you’ve been grieving a loss.
You didn’t get the thing you wanted? Something happened that you didn’t like?
Newsflash: You’re not depressed, you feel sad.
And if you’ve ever said any of the things to someone experiencing depression, well, you mistook their depression for your mistaken belief that depression and sadness are the same thing.

Sadness and depression are NOT the same thing.

Sadness is an emotional response to a circumstance or event: a betrayal or a loss.

Sadness must be allowed to be expressed. If we didn’t need this emotion, then it wouldn’t be part of who we are.

Sadness is an expression of grief, whether it’s the death of a loved one, the betrayal of trust, the loss of a hope or dream.

Grief is the process our minds and emotions go through in order to put sadness in perspective and accept the loss, in order to move forward.

Grief must be allowed to run it’s course for the person doing the grieving. It looks, feels, and acts different for everyone.

Depression is something different. Sadness and grief can either be part of or trigger depression. Conversely, depression isn’t a guaranteed response to or progression of sadness and grief.

Sadness and grief are emotional. Depression is a dysfunction of the organic brain and the neurochemistry. Depression needs the correct diagnosis and proper, often long-term, treatment.

Feelings, thoughts, and beliefs affect and are affected by it, but you can’t think yourself well. If we could, then doctors would be unnecessary.

In any of these things: sadness, grief, or depression, people on the outside tend to get really uncomfortable, really fast.

That discomfort often leads to invalidation of the person’s experience and emotions. It leads to stern judgment and impatient assumptions and criticism.

Bottom line…there is nothing wrong with sadness and grief. Expressing and experiencing them is not a weakness. It’s healthy human functioning.

Just because you’re uncomfortable, you don’t have the right or the responsibility to disrupt or derail their emotions or circumvent their processes.

If it is depression, pay attention. It can exist with no apparent reason. Telling someone they have no cause for the depression and reminding them that others have it worse doesn’t help them, at all. It just means you’re not an emotionally or psychologically safe person to be around.

If think you may be experiencing depression, please, please, please seek help. I know it can be hard. Especially if the people in your life aren’t understanding what you’re experiencing. Do it anyway. Depression is no way to live and it can be deadly. I know. I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. However, I’m having more good days than bad days and it’s only because I decided to get the help I needed. I found my why. Please find yours.
If you think someone you love may be experiencing depression, you can’t talk or chastise them out of it. You can’t force them to get help. You can make yourself available. You can make sure your presence is seen and felt. If they don’t feel up to going out and doing things, find something to do with them where they’re at. If they try to push you away, don’t let them. Let them know that, while you may not understand what they’re experiencing, you love them and you’re there for them anyway.


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