It has been six months since my wife died. This anniversary passed almost without notice and then I felt guilty for not noticing. I have been up to my ears in alligators of late and somehow the date did not register. As would be expected, I have been sad ever since she died. Sadness is the normal and expected response to such a loss. Sad and lonely seem to sum up my days and especially my nights. I almost cherish the sadness. Not that I do not want to move past the pain, but the sadness helps me remember her and to grieve her loss. I honestly believe the best thing to do with grief is grieve, and the sadness makes sure the grieving is done.
In the last few days I have moved from being sad to being depressed. They are not the same. Sadness is normal and healthy. Depression is not as normal and certainly not as healthy. I think we need to understand the difference and learn how to cope with each situation.
The depression that often comes with grieving and the kind I am experiencing right now does not come across as just being sad and feeling blue, it results in no feelings. I feel detached and numb. It is like I am outside of myself watching me go through my daily life but I am not engaged. I am emotionally flat. My ability to care deeply is absent.
I still function but I do not have the same feelings as I do so. I still speak publicly but I have no emotion as I write the speech nor during the delivery. Where once I would be excited as I prepared and feel an emotional response from the audience, now it is just a chore I do with little or no feelings. I still companion people in grief, but function on past experiences and knowledge and do not feel their pain as deeply as I once did.
I remember a young mother whose thirteen-year old son accidentally hanged himself. She kept saying she did not want to go on. I asked if that meant she wanted to take her own life and she said there was no way she would ever do that, but she did not want to go on. Her husband began telling her all of the reasons she had for going on. She reacted with, “I know all of that and I am going to go on, but I don’t want to and I want to want to.” I explained there is a form of depression that takes away our feelings. And further explained that the feelings would return in time, that they would return much faster if she did not fight herself and add pressure by thinking she should want to. Finding out she was normal seemed to help.
Depression comes from swallowed feelings. Mostly from swallowed anger. In my case the anger does not feel like anger. It feels more like hurt or frustration. Four months after my wife died I found out I was losing my eyesight and then had to stop driving my car. I have been so intent on figuring out how to function while living alone without a car and tried to be so strong and brave that I have ended up swallowing a lot of feelings and anger.
Not only does this depression impact my feelings it also affects my sleep. The sleep pattern caused by tension means we can’t go to sleep. With depression we go to sleep, then wake up and cannot go back to sleep. I have had a long time to think in the middle of the night of late.
I am way behind on my cussing. Those who have read my stuff know that I use two words. Cursing means using bad language. Cussing means expressing anger and frustration. I need to stop being strong and let out some feelings.
Sometimes it helps to do something physical. Hitting a nail in a board or punching a bag can do wonders. I know two women whose sons died in car crashes. The teed up Easter Eggs and hit them with gold clubs. They said it felt great but that the next time they were going to leave some of the eggs un-boiled and not know which ones. They thought the splatter would be even better.
I do not know what I am going to do as yet but I am getting ready for some serious cussing. I can handle being sad, but depression sucks.
Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.
Updated: October 9, 2013