Some of the most common sayings directed towards individuals after they have lost a loved one are often very similar to those directed towards individuals suffering from depression. What if you are depressed and grieving? More than likely you will get to hear these phrases doubled. If you have a friend or a loved one grieving that also experiences depression there are different ways you can express your concern during their grieving process other than the typical condolences uttered. People with depression process grief a different way emotionally than those who do not have a mood disorder. With a different type of grieving process the coping skills for the depressed person also must be different in order to help and get through to them.
Here are some common phrases used to express condolences that depressed people are tired of hearing:
1. "It's all in your head."
People often try to convince themselves and others that mood disorders and other mental illnesses are not on the same plane as physical related illnesses. This misconception is not only a very large part of suicide related casualties but it also floats around the stigma associated with mental disorders. Neither grieving nor experiencing depression is "all in your head" and they never will be. In fact, depression affects your whole body. Both need to be addressed properly and dealt with in a healthy, therapeutic manner.
Recommended: Therapy, Talk Therapy, Physical/Mental Exercise, Open Communication
2. "Other people have it much worse."
In a worldly sense this is true. There will always be someone worse or better off than you in the world. However, this is NOT a reason to push aside your emotions. While depressed and grieving this phrase is often uttered because it's intended to make you think what you are going through is little and that's somehow supposed to make you feel better. Just because your situation is lesser to someone else does not mean that it is in the same ballpark for you as an individual. Everyone has their level of coping and some of us with depression have worse coping skills than others and may not react to new stress the same way.
Recommended: Focus on you and your situation, Talk Therapy, Express your feelings often, Don't over Rationalize
3. "It'll get better."
This phrase is one of the most common things told to someone with depression and/or if they have lost a loved one. Although it may be said with a wholesome intention, it is still destructive to the person suffering. With emotions such as helplessness, hopelessness, dread and even self destruction a phrase like this will not do a person in pain any justice. You cannot simply snap out of these feelings when you are grieving or depressed. If we could snap out of it, we would have chosen to a while ago.
Recommended: Take unsolicited advice that's unhelpful and ignore it, focus on your progress from where you are emotionally, work on yourself at your own pace
4. "Have you tried ____?"
The answer is yes. The depressed person has tried what you are trying to tell them. More than likely they have tried everything. Yes, it is scientifically proven that exercise and eating a healthy diet can help lower depression but just like any illness not everyone responds positively to some forms of medicine. If you are trying to say that exercise, prayer, eating healthy, writing, art etc. is going to rid an individual's depression or needs to be tried it is not helping the individual. If you are grieving and have depression you are not going to have the energy or desire to even take care of yourself on a good day. These things mostly help people with periods of immense sadness, not depression with grieving mixed into the mess. Insisting on a certain thing you think may be helpful is just going to end up being frustrating and ignored.
Recommended: Do not be pushy with helpful ideas, Focus on needs, Help the depressed individual meet their needs
5. "Let's go grab a ____ and take your mind off of it."
What a brilliant idea. This may be with great intention but it is extremely self destructive. People who are grieving and/or depressed have a higher chance of becoming dependent or even addicted to different substances than someone who does not have a mood disorder or is grieving and this also includes food. Suggesting treating a person's depression and loss like a bad day at work and becoming intoxicated is like offering them a knife to cut themselves. Don't pave a way to more self destruction.
Recommended: Do something positive for yourself or your body, Stay away from highly addictive substances while depressed, Do not rely on a substance when depressed or grieving, Only follow body positive thoughts/movements
6. "I understand. I get depressed sometimes also."
The first part of this statement is wonderful and extremely recommended for anyone going through a hard time in order to validate their feelings. The second part, however, is also another way of invalidation. Depression is an illness and does not come and go as it pleases due to circumstances like sadness does. If you have had a battle with depression that can be helpful for validation and helpful pointers but try to focus the conversation not oriented towards you.
Recommended: Focus on the depressed person's feelings and thoughts, guide discussion towards them and do most of the listening, use life experience carefully
7. "Don't I make you happy?"
Of course loved ones are cared about while you have depression and are grieving. Part of the reason you are grieving is because you lost someone you cared about a lot. This phrase is not only hurtful but it causes guilt. When a phrase like this is said it creates a stronger feeling of hopelessness due to the fact a depressed individual already feels bad that they aren't like their "old selves" and cannot express love and positive emotions normally or at all. The most destructive part about this phrase is that it creates so much guilt. Guilt is a large driver of self destructive attitudes in depressed people and if they are grieving they will be more inclined to do something to themselves especially if they have heard someone around them expressed they feel undermined. It creates a "I will never be good enough" mentality.
Recommended: Ask what more you can do to validate a depressed individual's worth, Understand that guilt is dangerous, Talk therapy, Use "I" statements
8. "Life goes on"
After a loss of a loved one this phrase is often uttered. If someone is depressed they usually feel like they are dragging through time slowly and painfully. Mentioning a large amount of time filled with dread doesn't sound too appeasing, right? Life does go on but realize that this can invalidate someone's feelings because they want to focus on the now.
Recommended: Focus on one thing at a time, Realize time can be conceptual, Make sure you validate emotions
Just remember that everyone's symptoms of depression and ways of coping vary enormously and it is important to understand specific needs of an individual if you want to help. Many things you may say to a person without depression may help but for those who are depressed they just need a different approach!
Here's a few things that you CAN do to help: