Don’t Fall Asleep on the Sad and Depressed
I am prompted to write this blog piece because these are extremely difficult times. Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Christmas is fast approaching, and the New Year promises more of what we have experienced in this present year. People are sad, depressed, and anxious. We are being urged to limit our contact with the people we love during a time when we most need the people we love. Our traditions are being forced to changed along with our understanding of how to navigate in the world.
This year has been hard for all of us. There are some who were experiencing depression and anxiety long before the upheaval that COVID-19 has caused. For me it started on January 5, 2019, when my mother died quietly in her home. I was already providing primary care for my husband who had suffered multiple strokes in previous years. On December 26, 2019, my husband died. Since then, like so many others, I have struggled to make ends meet. Family members and friends have become ill and some have died. The ongoing racial tension, inability to gather with loved ones, and the seeming lack of compassion for fellow human beings weighs heavy on the mind.
Recently on Facebook, I saw several posts meant to encourage people during this holiday season by admonishing them to choose to be happy. “Happiness is a choice,” I have heard many times. I understand exactly what this is meant to convey, and I believe there is no malice intended in the statement. Yet, there are people among us who are not just a little “blue,” but actually clinically depressed and no one knows about it because they have internalized the statement, “choose to be happy,” and pretend to be so. They want to be happy. After all who wants to be depressed. They just cannot bring that feeling to the surface, and in an effort to not “ruin the holiday for everyone else,” they suffer in heart wrenching silence.
“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (NLT). These are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before the soldiers came to take him away to be executed. Despite all the good he had done; he was betrayed by one closest to him. Knowing his impending predicament, Jesus asked his friends to simply stay awake and be present with him while he pray and wait. Their response was to fall asleep.
They like many people did not know what to do with Jesus’s sadness and grief. It appears that the Church today has a difficult time dealing with people who are experiencing sadness or depression. For some reason we have come to believe that faith in God requires us to either always “be happy,” or at least always “look happy.” People are being forced to face the difficulties of life and the emotions that accompany those difficulties alone. Many are distressed and choose suicide as a vehicle for relief. The Church must become more comfortable dealing with the sadness of people and provide comfort for those who are sad or depressed.
This holiday season I urge you to beware of the sadness and depression of others. Stop trying to make people be happy so that you can feel comfortable and escape your responsibility to show compassion and comfort. “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” Jesus said this but we do not seem to grasp the insight that “be of good cheer,” is sometimes a process that may require having someone to talk to, long hours of therapy, or just someone dedicated to being present. Do as Jesus request and as the Holy Spirit urges. Be present for someone and be a comfort to them.
Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or need someone to talk to please utilize the resource below.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 Emergency 911