Episode 18: Grief vs. Depression
Intro: Welcome to the podcast Coronavirus Crisis: Carpe Diem, where you and I rise up and embrace the possibilities and opportunities for spiritual and psychological growth in this time of crisis, all grounded in a Catholic worldview.
Ok, so I know we’re now into some really heavy, difficult times in our country and in our world. There’s lots of things going on – we have the pandemic, we have partial lockdowns and closures, we have major unemployment issues, nearly half of small businesses are in danger of shutting down permanently. We have escalating tensions with Xi Jinping’s government in China and the possibility of the cold war with China turning hot. We now have riots and looting over the tragic death of George Floyd while under arrest by a Minneapolis police officer, we have very flawed and contentious politicians battling with each other in petty ways in an election year, we have growing revelations of corruption by current and former government officials and bureaucrats. There is a growing lack of confidence in our government, our news media and in our secular and religious institutions.
None of these factors changes the basic Gospel message. None of them. None of them can keep us from psychological and spiritual growth, unless we let ourselves be kept down. We need to rise up, we need to go beyond mere resiliency, to become even healthier in the natural and the spiritual realms than we were before.
I’m clinical psychologist Peter Malinoski your host and guide, with Souls and Hearts at soulsandhearts.com. Thank you for being here with me. This is episode 18, entitled “Grief vs. Depression” released on June 1, 2020.
Today, we’re going to really dive into the difference between grief and depression, and to illustrate the difference between grief and depression, we’ll be looking at five people from the Scriptures.
First, though, I want to offer a big Thank you to all the Resilient Catholics: Carpe Diem community members who came to our first ever Zoom meeting last Friday evening. We had a great conversation on unacknowledged or hidden grief. It was very good for us to get to know each other better and for us to connect and to be in relationship with one another. Thank you for praying for me, and know that I am praying for you.
So some of you may be asking, Dr. Peter, why, why is it important to know the difference between grief and depression – both of them feel bad, and we want to feel better. So why bother with the difference?
Waves or intense pages of painful emotion associated with the loss, which gradually soften and diminish over time.
Emptiness and loss – something is missing -- but also there are moments of happiness, joy.
Self-esteem generally remains intact. If there is self-criticism, it tends to be focused on perceived shortcomings about the loss (I should have visited my Mom more often before she died, I should have told her I loved her).
Relational connections remain intact. Able to give and receive in relationships, and can be consoled.
Ruminating on what or who was lost; Hope remains. Since of life going on.
Thoughts of death and dying focused on the lost person and perhaps reconnecting with the loved one in heaven. Some loss of desire to live on, but not overt wishes or impulses toward suicide.
Distress, sadness activated by memories or reminders of the loss.
Sadness, distress experienced continually over time
Ongoing depressed mood with anhedonia – unable to enjoy good things
Feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, with self-criticism. Critical toward self, feelings of worthlessness, and self-loathing. This is much more general. May involve significant shame.
Emotional withdrawal from others – perhaps with avoidance. Could be a physical withdrawal as well. Difficulty being consoled
Self-critical or pessimistic thoughts; tendency toward a loss of hope.
Suicidal thoughts related to feelings of being unworthy of life, or of not wanting to live anymore. Suicide considered an escape from unbearable pain with no other answers.
Depressed mood is not tied to specific thoughts or preoccupations
Let's flesh this out with examples of grief vs. clinical depression from Scripture:
Genesis 23: Sarah’s Death and Burial
23 Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years; this was the length of Sarah’s life. 2 And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. 3 Abraham rose up from beside his dead, and said to the Hittites, 4 “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
David is one of the most expressive men in the Bible.
2 Samuel 1
Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
25 How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in thy wrath!
2 For thy arrows have sunk into me,
and thy hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of thy indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.
5 My wounds grow foul and fester
because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my loins are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
13 But I am like a deaf man, I do not hear,
like a dumb man who does not open his mouth.
14 Yea, I am like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes..
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
Elijah God’s judgments and warnings to several Israelite kings, including the despotic Ahab and his formidable wife, Jezebel..
Here, Elijah had a great victory over 450 of Baal's prophets on Mt. Carmel, however, he remained fearful of Jezebel's revenge. He proved not only the power of God but the utter lack of power of the hundreds of pagan prophets. It seems Elijah should have been on top of the world, but he soon sank into the depths of depression after being threatened by Jezebel.
Elijah Flees from Jezebel
1 Kings 19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep.
Jeremiah: Jeremiah wrestled with great loneliness, feelings of defeat, and insecurity.
The ministry God called Jeremiah to was a difficult one. Nicknamed the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah was often the bearer of bad news. He was rejected, despised, and punished by the people he was sent to minister to. He remained faithful to God and resilient in the face of ridicule, but he felt the pain of loneliness deeply. His words in Jeremiah 20:14, 18, will resonate with anyone who has struggled with depression:
Also known as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah suffered from constant rejection by the people he loved and reached out to. He lived alone, he ministered alone, he was poor, ridiculed, and rejected by his people. In the midst of it, he displayed great spiritual faith and strength, and yet we also see his honesty as he wrestled with despair and a great sense of failure:
Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man
who brought the news to my father, saying,
“A child is born to you, a son,”
making him very glad.
16 Let that man be like the cities
that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
and an alarm at noon,
17 because he did not kill me in the womb;
so my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb forever great.
18 Why did I come forth from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame?
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mourning is the expression of grief – natural healthy process. We can and should experience grief over loss.
“ . . .we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again”
(2 Corinthians 1:8–10).
Grief turning into depression but then resolution.
Naomi and her husband and two sons were from Bethlehem. When famine struck and starvation was on the horizon, they moved to Moab, a neighboring country which had been spared from famine. While they were there, Naomi’s husband died, and her two sons married Moabite women, and died within 10 years. Naomi’s future looked dismal. Her husband had died. Her two sons had also died, leaving her destitute, with no one to provide for her. She was a stranger in a strange land with no prospects of how she was going to make it, how she would live on.
Naomi and her daughters-in-law heard the famine had lifted in Bethlehem, and Naomi decided to return to her homeland. Her daughter-in-law Ruth insisted on going with Naomi.
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them,
“Call me no longer Naomi [Pleasant]
call me Mara,[bitter]
for the Almighty[c
] has dealt bitterly with me.
21 I went away full,
but the Lord has brought me back empty;
why call me Naomi
when the Lord has dealt harshly with[d
and the Almighty[e
] has brought calamity upon me?”
Ruth met Boaz. And this blessing redeemed both her and her mother-in-law Naomi. In the end, Naomi gains a son, and through her line, the Savior of the world redeems mankind.
Despair: Cain and Judas
11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so![c
] Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod,[d
] east of Eden.
Matthew 27 3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent[b] blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
Resiliency – depends on God image. Resiliency depends on how well we can hold a providential God image.
In the next episode, we will go over so many ways to help ourselves and other move through the grieving process – that is in episode 20, you won’t want to miss that, comes out next Monday.
Action item: Register for the Resilient Catholics: Carpe Diem! Community here
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We have discussion boards and special zoom meetings among other benefits for community members. The recording of our first small group meeting on grief is going up in the community space, so you can access it. Our next small group meeting is on Saturday, June 6 at 5:00 PM Eastern, we have an experiential workshop on stress management and there is one seat left in that one. In that we are going to be practicing stress management techniques grounded in a Catholic worldview to help you through these difficult times.
We are real Catholics overcoming real issues with real transformation and real growth. Come join us at Souls and Hearts.com and you can also reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 317.567.9594 with questions about the community.
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