The difference between depression and grief is one of location.

Grief begins in my heart and pulsates out into my world. Depression, for me, resides in the recessive realms of my life with no tangible center. Grief is like a thunderstorm that rains incessantly in my heart and floods my life. Depression is like a fog that becomes so dark no light can penetrate; and the only light I have been able to find comes from within, deep within, the darkness.

Benjamin Depression and GriefBoth grief and depression feel overwhelming. I’ve experienced both. I’ve experienced them separately. I’ve experienced them together. I have touched the texture of both grief and depression and, for me, if I had the choice, I’d take grief any day, any night.

For the greatest difference for me between the two is grief, even with all its darkness and debilitation, still has a glimmer of hope. When I lean into my grief, when the pain of loss becomes so saturated with searing sorrow and I can’t breathe, when it becomes so dark that I can’t tell if my eyes or open or closed, there is still a presence. There is still an outlet; even if it is only the excruciating longing itself, there is still other that I press my heart against. I am not alone.

Benjamin Touch the ones I loveDepression is a dirty word for so many people. It’s the 21st century version of the plague. It is a helpless state for both the bystander and the one who is depressed. Neither can reach the other. The aloneness is unbearable. Yet, being with another is just as torturous.

Grief hurts, depression frightens. I fear those dark places that have in the past totally engulf me. I have leaned into the fog just as I have leaned into the storms. I have learned that to find light I must lean into the darkness; I must lean into everything to find life. I must feel everything to feel anything. I must go into that part of me, whether it is depression or grief, to find pure joy and the unconditional of love that resides, not at the end of sorrow, but in the midst of sorrow.

Light is a resident of darkness. Darkness nurtures the brilliance of light.

The beginning of my journey of leaning into everything began in the darkest of nights sitting next to a single candle. Matt would be in bed. Lydia and Bryan were already dead – dead to my touch, but alive in their presence. The stillness of the air left the flickering of the candle motionless. The day usually left me in paralysis and my relief came only at night.

I would sit on the couch next to a candle and I lean into both depression and grief. It was there I explored the subtleties of both. Like any maze, there were stark corridors and doors that wouldn’t open, empty rooms and hallways that led nowhere.

With a candle as my guide I saw the difference between the two. My sorrow had a location. It was missing Lydia. It was the ache of empty silence that once held her voice. It was the touch of Bryan against my chest. It was the baby that never became the boy. It was the breathing of my child in the next room under multi-colored dinosaur sheets that was slipping away from me day after day, night after night, candle after candle.

When the fog rolled in, I could feel the difference. My steps became shorter, more pensive, until they stopped altogether. I felt the distance between the candlelight and the darkness grow.

I became still, both from fear and exhaustion. I was too scared and too tired to run. I had felt this fog and my futility before, but this time particular occasion was different. My stillness changed from fear and exhaustion to what could either be described as resignation or release and acceptance. I simply said, “Hit me with your best shot. I’m done. I have no fear left. There is nothing that could be worse than what I’ve already experienced and what I’m going through now. And I’ve survived that. So what have you got?”

Every maze has secret compartments and passageways. The fog lifted just enough. The power I gave it became powerless to haunt me. I entered a new place of peace. The candle didn’t go out when I stepped into that deeper place within me. The light embraced me and led me deeper into the fog, into the vistas of my storms, into presence.

I am not alone. We are not alone. I do not fear my pain or another’s. Grief and depression are not plagues to be run from and those that travel the pain of sorrow do not need to be confined to sorrow alone. I need solitude. I need my nights of candlelight. But above all I need presence. And I know that no matter where I go or what I feel, I am not alone.

I cannot touch the ones I love in the way I once did, but we touch differently now. I wish I could hold them and I will always miss their physical presence. But I am not separate from them. I am not separate from our ongoing love. I do not live in isolation or the illusion of separation. Nothing is left behind, finished or over. Everything is still unfolding, embracing and evolving into a new way of being, a new way of loving and new way of life, even in the midst of my loss and in the depths of my sorrow.

Still in my wanderings I come across a thunderstorm or a fog that rolls in from out of the blue. I smile and say, “Here we go again. There must be another secret compartment I am to find and a greater presence to unfold. I simply light another candle and follow my heart.” I no longer fear what heals me.



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