Being there for people in the throes of loss.
Loss is part of life. You lose a loved one. You suffer a terrible injury, and your mobility is compromised. You move, and proximity to old friends disappears.
Changed identities, new iterations of ourselves, are also part of life. Sometimes the changes are great. You get a promotion with more-aligned responsibilities (as well as higher pay and an impressive change in job title). Or, in your younger years, you find out you have a talent at playing the guitar. With regular practice, you get better, build skills, and become comfortable calling yourself a guitarist.
But sometimes loss is what brings on the new iteration of self. A spouse dies, and you become a widow or widower. Or that terrible injury makes it so you can no longer see yourself as a runner.
Sadness, or even situational Depression, may result.
I’ve been thinking about loss and changed identities a fair amount lately. I don’t want to get into the details, but as a result of a recently-discovered impairment, my doctor prodded me to see my therapist to see if the change was making me (or would make me) depressed or anxious.
Luckily, as I’ve been able to say for years, I am not suffering from Depression. (I should note that while I’ve intellectually-processed this loss, I am just beginning to do so emotionally. I know, and my therapist agrees, some grieving will likely hit me. I hope it comes in the form of sadness, not Depression. That said, the change has made me more anxious. But this is not a post on Anxiety.
It is a post about being there for someone dealing with loss and the new iteration of self that can result. It can be tough, sometimes heart-wrenching — for anyone. For someone struggling with Depression and Anxiety, some role-changing losses can become debilitating. That’s why my doctor encouraged a check-in with my therapist.
My therapist, as always, had some profound bits of wisdom to share with me. But most of our discussion was centered on the fact that loss is a part of life, and it is even more so as you age. Loved ones die. Our bodies weaken. And so on.
Unfortunately, I believe we are a society that doesn’t handle feelings very well. And that is especially so for the intense emotions that often come with Anxiety or Depression. People dispense with platitudes. “Stay strong.” “Snap out of it.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I find comments like these horrible. Not only do they dismiss the feelings someone is grappling with, but they also make the suffering person feel alone.
Telling someone suffering and struggling with Depression to “Stay strong,” is ignoring the fact that they may need others to lean on. “Snap out of it?” Don’t even get me started. The person who utters this phrase needs to snap out of their ignorance. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Please.
Don’t get me wrong. It takes incredible strength for someone struggling with Depression and Anxiety to subsist and hopefully eventually heal. But while they are struggling even to make it, they may benefit from the care, connection, love, and support of those who say they’ll be with you through thick and thin.
Friends, we need to be there for each other more. We need to listen to, not steer clear of, those who need connection. And we need to practice compassion and empathy even though that can be difficult.
Now, as for me, the only emotional thing I’ve felt about my loss thus far is that the other night I had a lump in my throat and fell silent as I tried to repeat to Rebecca what I talked about with my therapist. I know a more profound sadness will hit me.
Thankfully, I know I’ll have others I can lean on.