For depression, that is. While everyone is feeling festive, getting creative with costumes, planning Thanksgiving dinners, and family trips for Christmas, the winter season also extracts a high toll for many people as well.
Daylight Savings just changed, so it’s darker earlier. We remember lost loved ones who you don’t get to celebrate the holidays with us anymore. Another year is ending, and realization sets in that you’re not where you hoped you be this year… again. And while everyone else seems so happy, you can easily be managing that “lonely in a crowd” feeling, while suffering with your pain internally.
Let me offer a few tips to surviving what has been called by many as Seasonal Onset Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this holiday season…
- Talk to someone! This is number one, because many people struggle alone unnecessarily. And you don’t have to! Chances are, you’re not alone. You don’t need a lot of people, but you need a one or two good ones, who know your pain, and who you can reach out to in a moments notice and know they’ll respond.
- Wake up earlier. The sun didn’t go away completely, we just messed our clocks up! If you make it a point to wake up a little earlier than before, you’ll get to see some of the sunlight. And that is really good for your mental health.
- Take care of your body. I’ve anticipated this with my own emotional struggles, and I got back into the gym about a month ago. I literally feel like I’m working my depression off even more than I’m working off the extra calories I probably shouldn’t have consumed.
- Stay in community. While you need one or two good people to confide in about your struggles, it’s also healthy to go to the company party, family gathering, church event, or whatever other forms of community you might be interested in participating in. It reminds you that you belong to this human race, you’re not alone, and there is good to experience, primarily through other people.
- Prayer/Meditation. Part of dealing with your depression is actually dealing with it. Time in prayer and meditation is a fantastic way to confront your struggle directly and process your pain in a productive manner that actually leads to healing.
- Don’t be ashamed. You’re not a blight on the season! You’re growing, healing, and communicating through your real struggle. So don’t add unnecessary guilt on top of depression.
Be healthy. Talk to someone, deal with your problems, don’t be ashamed… there’s hope for you! It might not be your fault for feeling this way, but it is your responsibility to take care of yourself through this season. Try to focus on the joys this season. There are a lot of wonderful things to reflect on and experience. Depression doesn’t have to dominate your season.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.“
– 1 Thessalonians 4:13
I get weary at nearly every funeral of the counsel people try to give to the family of the deceased. Many well-intentioned friends and relatives quote scriptures about Heaven and say things like “they’re in a better place.” It’s not that these quotes are incorrect, it’s that they are almost universally ill-delivered. I always know it’s grating on the grieving individual when they quietly but consistently respond to each new piece of advice with “I know.”
Translation to the “I know” response? Internally, that person is thinking something like, “Yes, I too have heard, quoted, and memorized every single verse you’re giving me now. I know that I’ll see my Dad/Mom/kid/friend/etc. in Heaven one day, and that right now they are in Jesus’ presence enjoying perfect rest. But I was just having lunch with them a week ago and now they’re gone… I can’t talk to them, laugh with them, or turn to them when I need them anymore. And all of your ‘advice’ feels a lot like you’re telling me to suck it up and get over the fact that my ______ just died and I feel like I’m burying a piece of my soul with them.”
I’ve even heard some suggest that we should not grieve at all for the loss of a loved one because they’re “in God’s hands now” and we’ll see them again.
This may be a revolutionary thought for some, but grief is a good thing.
Jesus grieved at the loss of a friend, Lazarus. Psalm 34 tells us that God is “near to the broken-hearted.” And even the above passage from 1 Thes. encourages us who are in Christ, that “we do not grieve like… those who have no hope.” But we do grieve. And grief is good.
Grief is accepting and acknowledging that we’ve suffered a loss.
It’s giving that loss it’s proper place of honor, and it is also an important piece to the healing process in our own hearts. Not grieving a loved one who’s passed is a lot like getting a serious wound and not treating it – healing is slow, if not unlikely, and infection of the wound is almost guaranteed.
I’ve seen many Christ-followers carry an infected heart because they were taught to “not grieve” and the hurt of losing someone has left them with an aching, wounded soul. They often turn that blame straight to God for taking their loved one instead of properly grieving and leaning on God’s grace for hope and healing.
Grief is also the price we all inevitably pay for love.
Every person you and I love (including ourselves) will one day face death. And the greater the love for that person, the greater the grief. Grieving that person’s loss is acknowledging how loved they were. In an unexpected way, grief is also a sort of celebration that a person was well loved, and greatly missed – even if Heaven is a future hope. It’s healthy to remember that.
So not grieving them is almost like denying that they were loved at all.
There comes a point when we must all move passed the grief, of course – accept a new normal without that loved one in our lives, remember and celebrate the life that we enjoyed with them, live the rest of our days in a way that person would be proud of us, and look expectantly to the day we are all reunited in God’s big family.
Yes, we should encourage people with the promises of God in His word.
But more than anything, a grieving person needs to see us live God’s word out to them in their loss, not just heard quoted at them from a safe distance. Instead of just quoting a verse at them, get close to them. Mourn with them. Be the promise that God gave to those who suffer loss. Be near the broken-hearted. Like Jesus did.
Wars. Natural Disasters. Government overthrows. Economic failures. Terrorist plots. Crisis and uncertainty abound. Is this another difficult time among other difficult times in history? Could these things be signs of something worse on the way? Could all these things be pointing to the beginning of the end? Join us for a 4 week series that connects current events with Biblical prophecies. Know what is to come, and know what all of the signs mean for you.
I don’t do these kind of series often at our Saturday night service, but we felt the need to address several concerns with everything that has happened in the last few years: Wars in the Middle East, increasing fossil fuel depletion, massive earthquakes, political upheavals, economic limbo, and on, and on we could go. We cannot pretend like these things are not happening. We must face reality and know what it means for us. We don’t intend to scare anyone, but rather for people to know the truth, and for the truth to set them free!
With that said, join us for this look into the possibly-not-too-distant End Times series. Be informed. Be wise. And be ready.