Depression - Part III
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” —Isaiah 53:3-4
People choose how they grieve or react and adjust to loss. It can be either constructive or destructive, and one of the results of destructive grieving can be depression.
Dr. Edgar Jackson, author of eighteen books covering three important aspects of bereavement, defines grief as, “the intense emotion that floods a life when a person’s inner security system is shattered by an acute loss, usually associated with the death of someone important in his or her life.” 1
Grief can be caused by the “the loss of anything of real value which a person cares about … something which has provided security or support or satisfaction and fulfillment, something in which one has invested emotionally.”2
People grieve over physical or emotional disability, loss of limbs or organs through surgery or accident, giving up things a person has been addicted to or extremely dependent on, such as smoking, alcohol, drugs, or certain foods, a romantic break up, such as losing a boyfriend or girlfriend, marital separation or divorce, losing a job or important position, leaving home and going to a new community, leaving children for work, college, military service, or marriage, retirement, or facing a terminal illness.” 3
The guidelines for ministering to grieving individuals may be helpful in all of these situations, but we will limit our discussion to grief due to the death of a loved one.
For every loss, there is an adjustment period, which is either constructive or destructive. It is impossible for us not to react to a loss, but a mourner can choose how he will adjust. The problem occurs when many people either avoid dealing with their loss or adjust to it in inappropriate or harmful ways. Either of these can adversely affect their relationship with God and others. The method they use to cope with their grief can also have a negative effect on how they view themselves and their circumstances.
Four of the most important variables influencing the intensity and duration of grief are:
Obviously, the closer the relationship between the survivor and the deceased, the more intense and long the grief will be. It will probably take longer for a person to adjust to the loss if he feels he cannot exist without the loved one, if he depended on the support and love of the deceased for his own security and identity, or if he were involved in activities with the deceased on a daily basis. How a person has dealt with previous losses and that person’s emotional stability are also important. An emotionally stable person who is able to openly express his feelings and has been able to cope successfully with previous losses, is more likely to adjust to the death of someone close in a shorter period of time.
- closeness of the relationship
- how the person died
- how the survivor has dealt with previous losses and how stable he is emotionally
- the ethnic and religious background of the survivor. 4
The grieving process can also be helped or hindered by traditional ethnic methods of coping with death and by the support or lack of support received by family and friends. Some ethnic groups encourage the open expression of feelings and are more supportive than others.
But the most important thing is their relationship to God. The sorrows referred to in Isaiah 53:3-4 mean anguish and affliction that results in pain and sorrow. The grief it is talking about is anxiety, calamity, weakness, sickness, affliction, and travail.
In Isaiah 53:4, it talks about Christ lifting, bearing, carrying, taking away, and helping to be free from those physical and spiritual sorrows and griefs. It means that He was the substitutionary representative that was needed to carry away the sorrows and griefs and to lift up the souls who were entirely dependent on something other than God (Deut. 24:15), which is sin.
For Christ to carry our sorrows means to take the sorrow resulting from sin (Genesis 13:24; Exodus 28:30; Psalm 32:1, 5) that is, ultimately, putting faith in anything other than the cross because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). This can lead to depression and other results of destructive grieving that also hinder acceptance of the reality of the loss, experiencing the pain of grief, adjusting to life without the deceased, and reinvesting in other relationships.
1 Dr. Edgar N. Jackson, “Grief,” in Concerning Death, Edited by Earl A. Grollman.
2 William A. Miller. When Going To Pieces Holds You Together, Augsburg Publishing House: Minneapolis, MN, 1976, p. 18>
3 Ibid., p. 17.
4 J. William Worden, Grief Counseling And Grief Therapy, Springer Publishing Company: New York, NY, 1982, p. 1.