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When Grief and Depression Feel Oddly Similar

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After a long-fought battle and a range of wars that went on for so long, my mother-in-law passed away from an ever-building list of health conditions. She was probably the toughest woman I’ve ever met in my life, but really she was a strong woman in a tired body. No longer can anything ail her. However, her death led to a different type of ailment that many know all-too-well: grief.

My husband is kind of the rock and diplomat of the family. He was set up as the patriarch long before he should have been, but he’s allowed to not be strong in this moment. He’s lost both of his parents. His siblings have lost both of their parents.

My mother-in-law was kind of the glue who kept everyone together. Who could take over has been talked about before. She just had a stubborn way of telling people they are going to get along and get together. My husband is trying to process this whole “year of firsts,” even before the funeral has happened. He’s having a hard time with it, the hurt, the loss and the sudden emptiness.

I’m trying to keep myself together for him — just being there if he needs to talk it out, to make sure he takes care of himself and to be supportive the best way I possibly can. It’s really hard to see him this way.

When I have one of my depressive episodes, I know I’m not easy to deal with and probably incredibly frustrating. Yet, when I can’t feel anything, except maybe emptiness and guilt, there’s not a lot that can get me motivated or bring a smile to my face. I’m just kind of there. A thick, heavy, gray, fog-like cloud covers me, which makes it incredibly hard to breathe and hard to see. It consumes me and my soul. Anyone who doesn’t struggle with this really has a hard time understanding it.

I know my husband tries. He’s very supportive of me and tries to understand. However, I know he really doesn’t understand. It’s hard to grasp.

Today, while getting him out and about to get him outside, he was having a distant moment. I could feel his disconnect and just put my hand on his leg, enough to let him know I was there but not to push anything. Nothing I’m going to say is going to change that we lost his mom. It won’t bring her back, and it won’t make the pain go away. Instead, I’m just going to meet him where he is and allow him to feel any feel he needs to feel.

Then, my husband said something that surprised me.

He took a breath and said, “You know, it’s times like this when I feel for you.”

This struck me as odd. He’s freshly grieving, yet feels for me? I don’t mind that he needs to grieve, and I know he’s hurting and down. Yet, this was still an odd statement until he clarified. He told me he has more of an appreciation for what I go through on a regular basis. He began to describe the emptiness, the heaviness, the tiredness, the lack of motivation and the lack of joy.

He even pointed out you can be happy in one of these moments without having joy. Because he realized this is what I’ve been trying to describe to him when I’m so low. He talked about the big emptiness in his chest even though he knows there’s love all around him. He just can’t feel it.

It hurt my heart to hear this because I understood every word. Don’t get me wrong, I know grief is different than depression, but it seemed oddly similar in this moment. My heart breaks for my husband. My heart breaks for my family. I am heartbroken over the great loss of quite the woman his mother was. My heart breaks that my husband even remotely understands my depression because of this. I’m so sorry it takes something like this for someone to understand.

Maybe now there’s some understanding in the future for my situation. Until the next time it hits me, I’ll do my best in sympathy and empathy as his cycle of grief gets going. For now, I’m going to meet him where he is and allow him to feel the feels he needs to feel. I’ll be there to help him through, to try to understand, to listen to him or just to sit or lay with him. Because grief is monster of its own.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Experience Lived.

Originally published: September 6, 2016
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