I have experienced two episodes of clinical depression in my life, and both had to do with death. Other dear ones had died, and I had grieved, but these cut too close to the bone, and I slipped from grief into depression. The first loss I pulled out of after about eight months. The next depressive episode occurred after a loved one attempted suicide, and even though it was thankfully unsuccessful*, for me it took medication, psychotherapy, and many long talks with friends and family before my mind began to clear and I could be happy again.
Two activities especially helped me during these episodes – poetry (reading and writing) and journaling. The poems of Emily Dickinson flashed like streaks of lightning across the dark chaos of grief, illuminating what I couldn’t put to words.
I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.
And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb
And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead, again.
Then space began to toll
As all the heavens were a bell,
And being, but an ear,
And I and Silence some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here.
My English professor husband’s favorite poem about grief, from Tennyson, a very short quote from a very long poem:
*My dear loved one is doing well.