I stumbled on this TEDx talk the other day and was fascinated by it and the comments from the viewers.
Although I don’t really know a lot about depression and I don’t feel depressed myself, a lot of what he talks about resonates with me, especially when thinking about grief and my own experience of losing my children. This happens to me a lot now when I read or watch such talks. There are recurring themes between many of them I find. The topic typically deals with some kind of trauma, an illness or adversity. And often a big part of the problem is how society reacts to the person who suffers which all comes back to a lack of empathy and compassion. I have started to wonder if compassion and empathy can be taught and learned or if it requires suffering to fully understand it? In the past years it has become very apparent to me that the reaction of others to tragedy is a very good predictor if the other person has suffered previously in any form themselves. The words they chose, the way they ask questions etc. all are very different.
Without wanting to compare things that are not comparable, I believe a lot of what he says is transferable to other situations like grief. Check out these quotes:
“Depression isn’t chicken pox. You don’t beat it once and it is gone forever. It’s something you live with.”
This sounds like a familiar concept with how society looks at grief. The idea persists that after some time it vanishes and everything is again like it was before. In reality it becomes part of one’s life.
“The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one.”
So true. It feels the same to me regarding stillbirth and neonatal death.
“The world I believe in is one where I can look someone in the eye and say, “I’m going through hell,” and they can look back at me and go, “Me too,” and that’s okay.”
Again, this is something that I have encountered as well. The typical response is either avoidance, i.e. others not feeling able to provide support for the person in need and hence avoiding the person or the topic or an urge to cheer the person up. Acknowledgement of something bad can go a long way, but our natural reaction these days is that we have to somehow make it better.
“We’re people, and we struggle and we suffer and we bleed and we cry, and if you think that true strength means never showing any weakness, then I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. You’re wrong, because it’s the opposite. We’re people, and we have problems. We’re not perfect, and that’s okay.”
A very powerful talk and I am glad to see it get the attention it deserves. Although it is not directly related to childloss and grief, I feel that there are many things that can be learned in general with regard to how to support people who suffer. Some of the support options, like just being with someone while they suffer, seem universal and not directly connected to the cause of the suffering which could be the result of many things such as depression, loss or accidents.