grief / depression

“Richard’s death stirred up such a darkness in me that I was forced to examine those things depression and grief hold in common and those they do not. The differences were essential, the similarities confounding.

I did not, after Richard died, lose my sense of who I was as a person, or how to navigate the basics of life, as one does in depression. I lost a man who had been the most important person in my life and around whom my future spun. I lost many of my dreams, but not the ability to dream. The loss of Richard was devastating, but it was not deadly.

I knew depression to be unrelenting, invariable, impervious to event. I knew its pain to be undeviating. Grief was different. It hit in waves, caught me unawares. It struck when I felt most alive, when I thought I had moved beyond its hold. I am so much better dealing with his being gone, I would say to myself, assured by some new pleasure in life. Then I would be flung far and cold by a wave of longing I could scarcely stand.

“Grief teaches in its own way, and thoughts of Richard came and went in a manner not of my choosing. Grief, pre-Academic and excellently evolved, knew how best to do what it had to do. Richard had to come and go, return and leave again, if he was to take leave in the way he must. He had to take leave in order that I might find a new place for him; in order that I might find a new way to be with him, in order for life to go on. Or so I found some peace in believing.

Grief, said C. S. Lewis, is like ‘a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ This is so. The lessons that come from grief come from its unexpected moves, from its shifting views of what has gone before and what is yet to come. Pain brought so often into one’s consciousness cannot maintain the same capacity to wound. Grief conspires to ensure that it will in time wear itself out. Unlike depression, it acts to preserve the self. Depression is malignant, indiscriminantly destructive. Grief may bear resemblance to depression, but it is a distant kinship.”  Kay Redfield Jamison

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