As a small child I was very close to my great grandmother, Lucille Mason Bishop (Big Mama). My cousin Chris said everyone in our family has a “favorite family member”. Big Mama was my favorite. She was my Saturday morning coffee drinking buddy. She was my friend.
When I was 9 she became ill. I remember riding with my mother to visit her in the hospital several times. When she was in ICU I couldn’t go in to see her because I was too young. Then one day after school my mother picked me up and headed to the hospital. I waited while my mother went in to assess the situation. Then she came back to tell me Big Mama had passed.
I was too young to know what depression was, but looking back, I know I was depressed. I was grieving and it showed up in several ways. I couldn’t sleep. I was an “A” student but I began to struggle with school. I stopped caring. I felt so empty and lonely and bottled up that I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I wouldn’t cry either. Eventually, it caught up with me.
I began to have a feeling of thickness in my head and severe headaches. The headaches became unbearable and my mother took me to the emergency room. I don’t remember her name or what she looked like but the nurse in the ER got on my level and talked to me. She asked me questions and began to relate to me. This nurse was the first person to draw out my pain. I shared my feelings for Big Mama with the nurse and began to cry uncontrollably. My headaches and most of my sadness went away that night.
“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5 NKJV)
WebMD.com has the following description of the depression stage of grief: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief
This stage of grief occurs in some people after they realize the true extent of the loss. Signs of depression may include sleep and appetite disturbances, a lack of energy and concentration, and crying spells. A person may feel loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and self-pity.
Don’t take this stage lightly. Don’t think that one day you’ll just “feel better”. Depression is real. It’s not simply emotional either. It can become chemical where your body gets out of balance. Sometimes others won’t understand and try to get you to snap out of it. But the feelings you have must be drawn to the surface and dealt with in a healthy way. It’s like deep water that must be drawn out with understanding.
In the past four years, I have personally sat down with a counselor and discussed my feelings when loved ones have died. I have also found wise counsel in family members, good friends, and fellow clergy. God has put people in my life who can sympathize and empathize with my losses. Their understanding and encouragement has helped me correctly identify my feelings and pray for healing.
There are ministry leaders and professionals who have been educated to help us with depression. There is nothing shameful about getting help. You’re not weak if you go see a counselor. On the contrary, you’re strong and wise for acknowledging your condition and seeking help. Don’t worry about the cost either. Many of you work for companies that provide counseling or a certain number of visits may be covered by your insurance. Get the help you need so your heart can heal from your loss.