• Ilan Cooley

grief vs depression

" I felt I had to write this entire thing to justify that my grief was real and difficult. I felt I had to defend my struggles. I felt I had to explain that my grief is not also depression. I felt judged. It felt bad.I want to take out the vs. There is no winner when it comes to struggle and pain."


A few words used to describe my writing: unflinching, honest, raw, vulnerable. I am not objective about it, but I take each as a compliment. The most impactful thing someone has said is, “your writing makes me feel seen.”


I think that is what we all want. To know we matter. To feel our existence makes a difference. To be validated. The gift in that comment is it makes ME feel seen in return.


I reflect a lot. Every time I write, a piece of me goes into it. A part of my essence is attached. I have a very deep need to assign meaning to my experiences, and learn from them. Once I find the lesson, I often share it, and of course, it is all very personal. I need to see a lot of light before clarity comes, and the words appear. The process needs to be nearly complete before I can put it on paper. I have written a lot about grief, loss, and isolation this past year because those are the things I have been through. It has been a fertile topic. Perhaps if it has all flowed out of me, it means I am nearly through it.


One of the things I shared was a video about taking a happiness class. Someone commented it was irresponsible of me to imply a class could cure depression. It took several exchanges for them to understand I was sharing my personal experiences with grief, and was not talking about depression. Perhaps to them the two are intertwined, and that is valid. It is human nature to view others through our own lens. I do not write about depression, because I have not experienced it.


At times, I have found myself defending my grief. It had such as grip on me I felt I needed an exorcism. Despite being transparent about my losses, my grief was sometimes misunderstood. An otherwise “happy” person can experience loss and grieve. Someone told a friend of mine they thought I was suicidal. I was not suicidal. I was grieving. At first, I felt hurt and betrayed. Then I felt devastated knowing if I had been, help may not have come at all, or could have arrived too late. I felt that deeply. I had to grieve that loss too.


My friend Daphne Shipka is a transition support coach and end of life care doula. She started a business to help people with the grieving process, and works to end the stigma that surrounds grief. “In western society people often do not openly speak about grief,” she says. “Bereavement is almost an unspoken taboo, but it is a natural response to loss.”


We need more people like Daphne. We need targeted, specific, tangible services to help people with a large spectrum of challenges. These days, we are told to talk about our mental health, but I get frustrated with the “let’s talk” solution. I feel talking is a good first step, but it is not enough. We need real resources, and they need to be accessible to everyone.


I finally wrote this today because a lot of our social structures have crumbled, which means most of us are not on familiar, or solid ground. Maybe one day soon I will write about why I stood in a Rogers store and cried. None of this is normal. Things have shifted quickly, and the feelings that come with so much change needs to be processed. Like grief, or any other unexpected life situation, the way though it is not easy, and the path to get there is different for every person. It takes a customized approach. We can't make assumptions, or pass judgments.


I added the title to this post after I finished writing most of it—grief vs depression. It looks like I am pitting them against each other, but they are not in competition. I felt I had to write this entire thing to justify that my grief was real and difficult. I felt I had to defend my struggles. I felt I had to explain that my grief is not also depression. I felt judged. It felt bad.


I want to take out the vs. There is no winner when it comes to struggle and pain. It is not a competition, and there is no rating system. Pain is pain.


If you are reading this, whatever you are going through, please know YOU matter and know that I care ❤️


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