On Words: Sadness versus Depression

Sadness. I have been thinking about this word for the last few days. You see I attended a funeral the other day, and while funerals can be the recognition of a life well lived, they also envelope you in the abject sadness of the loss of the human being honored. And the younger the honoree, plus the method of their passing, combine to form a pall, a shadow, a cloud over the proceedings.

I have to admit, I had a delayed reaction to the funeral. I was fine at the time. I ran errands afterwards, I got on with my life. Then the next day it hit me. The sadness. There was this abject overwhelming feeling of  loss. And this for me, this funeral was not even a personal loss. Going was an act of kindness toward the people that I love who had suffered this tragedy.

So I am thinking about sadness, funerals and the nature of reality. In truth, we are all going to die. For some of us that is a scary reality,  one we do not and refuse to contemplate. So much so that they think they will jinx their lives if they make a Will, or set up anything for after they are gone. For others they try to make sense of it through a belief in reincarnation, or a heaven of everlasting peace.

We all know that life has an end. That when we are born the only thing that we are guaranteed in this life is that one day we will die. What we are not guaranteed is the time and place of our passing.

But what is it about this known reality that actually makes human beings so sad? If we know that death is inevitable, why do we become so morose when it happens? Why not be like Yoda and “rejoice that the person we love has become one with the force?” Perhaps, other than the fact that Star Wars is our modern fictional mythology,  it is not in the nature of human beings to celebrate death. It is in our nature to either fear it, or to be in awe of death.

For human nature is to seek life, to fight for it, to celebrate it, to embrace it with gusto. It is not in our nature to call for death. That is why suicide is considered such an aberration, and for eons was something derided instead of understood.

Death has always been shrouded in mystery throughout human history. It is the ultimate great unknown. No one, no matter what the seers will tell you, has ever come back to verify that heaven, or hell, exists. Yes, there are those who have survived “near death experiences,” so they say. They talk about a bright light and Jesus. But isn’t it funny how their version of heaven fits neatly into their religious beliefs? Science says that this is a chemical reaction to passing, and your brain is simply trying to help you through the process. It is a human, emotional, protective response to the act of dying.

A Christian, who claims a near death experience, never  tells us that  they were greeted by Mohammed and not Jesus, or a Moslem, for that fact, never tells you that there is no such thing as Paradise. Now  Jews, on the other hand, don’t actually have a completed view of life after death, on par with most other religions, so it is not surprising that they never see a religious figure, its usually a lost family member.(And yes there is Kabbalah and the Rambam and their opinions, but these are not based on near death experiences, so they say.)

Ultimately, I think we humans, do not like being sad. We do not like the moroseness we feel when we mourn the loss of a fellow human being. Well, yes there are some who relish the attention, but for them there are some good psychotherapists. But for most of us, the sadness we feel at such a loss, is something we work to overcome, and to try to deal with on an intellectual, and meaningful emotional basis.

The medical world has decided that there are 7 stages to grief. Having lived through grief, I disagree. Some of us experience all of the stages, some just a few. And yes, you can say that perhaps I have not fully dealt with my grief of the past few years, just that  I have learned to live with it.

But on the other hand, I do think, that psychiatry being a rather inexact science, their conclusions do lend themselves to some personal interpretations. (Also having gone from one doctor to the other trying to get my autistic sons the services and supports that they need to be successful, also has taught me that not everyone with a medical degree actually knows what they are doing. Also, if the psychiatric world were absolute in their knowledge of how the brain works, they wouldn’t have to change the DSM so often)

So we can talk about sadness, grief, loss,  and the need to understand, rationalize and compartmentalize the reality that if the Angel of Death wants us, there is no place to run. Not to a hospital and not to Samarra. We cannot outwit the ultimate reality, but we can delay it as long as possible. That is why we have doctors, medicine, shamans, and prayer.

So sadness. That abject overwhelming feeling of loss and the need to comprehend how to move forward is very much a part of the human experience. And we each experience it differently. We manifest our need to process this emotion in many different ways as well. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all way of dealing with sadness.

But I do think it is important that in dealing with your sadness, your grief, you never forget that you do have the right to live the life you were given. That you do have the right to be alive. That you do have the right to live a good and descent life. That you do need to see the beauty that is in life. You do NOT have a right to harm yourself because of your loss.

If the person you wish to honor truly cared for you, then the last thing they would want is for you to live a small, hurtful, and stunted life.

So while we  deal with sadness in our own unique ways,  it is also important to understand that sadness is not depression.

Sadness you work through.

Depression, on the other hand, is a deadly disease. As deadly as cancer, and even more misunderstood. A disease that still fills some with shame, so much shame in fact, that it leads to self-neglect and loss of life.

We as a society still need to change the narrative about depression, suicide and mental health.

If what you are feeling makes it seem as if tomorrow would be better off without you, please seek help. HERE

No the world will never be better without you.

1-800-273-8255-  National Suicide Prevention hotline

Sadness versus Depression

Is it depression or just the blues?

The difference between sadness and depression



About Elise "Ronan"

#JewishandProud ...
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