Grieving a Loss: Supporting a Depressed Spouse | A Guide to Facilitating Healing and Preventing Deep Depression
Grieving a Loss: Supporting a Depressed Spouse
At the heart of any treatment program for situational depression is helping the person walk through the grief process. Almost always, situational depression centers on the loss of something, whether it be a job, parent, child, integrity, health, marriage, or the loss of a dream. If the person is not allowed to grieve over the loss, he or she will almost always end up depressed.
Sonya’s Approach: Opening the Conversation
Sonya’s husband, William, went into a depression almost immediately after his father’s death. Fortunately, Sonya recognized the symptoms and realized that depression often follows a significant loss. She also understood that the process of grieving is facilitated by talking about the loss. So she started asking William questions about his father, William Senior—more questions than she had ever asked in her life—and he started talking.
Discovering Positive and Painful Memories
She learned of William’s positive memories of helping his dad around the family farm when he was growing up. She also learned of painful memories that he had of his father’s harsh discipline. She continued to ask questions, and he continued to talk. She knew that she was helping him work through his grief and walk out of depression.
Persistent Support: Encouraging Communication
At first, William was reluctant to talk about his father. He made comments like, “He’s gone. There’s no need to talk about him.” But Sonya would not be brushed off. She knew that he needed to talk, and she wanted to listen. She realized that his loss was not simply the death of his father but that his father’s death had touched varied pain from his childhood—memories of basketball games where his dad was not in the stands to cheer; memories of his father’s harsh words, but no memory of his father saying the words, “I love you.”
The Healing Power of Love and Listening
William had never shared these thoughts and feelings with anyone, but Sonya had the wisdom to pull them out and to listen sympathetically without trying to heal the wounds herself. She said things like, “I can see how that would have been painful; how did you handle it at the time?” She stayed away from condemning statements, such as, “That was such a little thing—why did that bother you?” She listened and affirmed. She let him grieve. She helped him grieve.
Preventing Deep Depression: Consistent Conversations
She realized that she could not change his feelings of sorrow but that she could influence him toward healing by getting him to talk. Although Sonya was sometimes frustrated with William’s distance and lack of communication, she chose not to let those emotions control her actions. Instead, she chose to be an agent of positive change in her marriage and take positive action. She let her love for William become a powerful weapon for his healing.
In the first six months after William’s father died, they had several of these conversations. Then every three months, she would bring up his dad again. For two years, she followed this process. At the end of two years, William’s grief work was done, and he was able to move on with life. He never entered a deep depression because he was allowed to grieve his losses. However, if his wife had not been there, there is a strong possibility that William would have gone into a deep and long depression after his father’s death. That could have required extensive therapy for healing. Helping people grieve by talking about their losses is preventive medicine. It often averts serious depression.
The Role of a Wise Spouse: Knowledge and Support
The wise spouse will make time to gain information on depression and grief. Sooner or later, we will all experience
losses in life. These losses can lead us to healthy grief or unhealthy depression. The spouse who understands depression and the process of grief can be extremely helpful in these times of crisis. The spouse who does not understand the process can actually compound the suffering of his or her mate. Numerous resources on the subject of depression are available on the internet, in any public library, and through your pastor or a therapist of your acquaintance. The wise spouse will be informed and ready to help facilitate the process of grief and to ward off depression.
Key Elements in Helping a Depressed Spouse
1. Show Care and Encouragement: Seriously depressed people will seldom take initiative to help themselves. They are overwhelmed with the darkness of life. Their constant companion is a sense of helplessness. Therefore, be a caring spouse, showing compassion and being encouraging.
2. Encourage Professional Help: If your spouse’s depression lingers more than a few weeks, encourage him or her to talk with a counselor, pastor, or physician. If such encouragement goes unheeded, then tell your spouse that you are going for help because you cannot sit idly by and watch him or her suffer.
3. Embrace Reality-Living Principles: Remember to apply reality-living principles, especially principles three and six: I cannot change others, but I can influence others. Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world.
4. Seek Advice and Education: My suggestion is that you contact a counselor or pastor and express your concern about your spouse and how his or her depression is affecting you. Ask the counselor for recommended readings and advice on how you can be helpful to your spouse. Learn everything you can about depression. Review the “dos and don’ts” listed earlier in this chapter.
5. Dismiss Myths and Hold onto Hope: Be sure to dismiss the myths. There is hope for your depressed spouse and for your marriage. Hopefully, your efforts to be an agent of positive change in your marriage will serve to motivate your spouse to reach out for professional help.
6. Be a Catalyst for Positive Change: Whatever the source of depression, there is always hope if the depressed person can get appropriate physical, psychological, or spiritual help.
7. Remember the Power of Assistance and Hope: Helping a depressed spouse requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to fostering a healing environment. By following these dos and avoiding the don’ts, you can make a positive difference in your partner’s journey towards recovery.
Remember, supporting a depressed spouse through the grieving process is essential for their healing. Use these key elements to provide the care, understanding, and encouragement they need.
- Unveiling the Journey: Helping a Depressed Spouse and Rebuilding a Strained Marriage
- Why Are They Depressed? Unraveling the Hidden Causes and Solution