Depression and the Gift of Grief

The world is loud and terrible this summer. It is as if the entire planet has tilted on its axis and dipped us all in nightmare.

The grass outside my bedroom window is dotted with yellow maple leaves. I don’t know if this is because summer is already ending or because the largest and oldest of the maple trees is dying. Perhaps it is both.

Land and growing things are broken, nations are broken, bodies and minds are broken. And we respond by shouting at one another.


after the storm2


I indulge in shouting some days, but, mostly, I respond by retreating into silence.

When my children explode over cracked Legos and the last popsicle, I struggle to stay with them in the noise. I want only to slip away, to climb the steps to my bedroom, to sit in the curve of the bow window noticing yellow leaves on the lawn outside.

The world grows louder, and I grow quieter. Sometimes, this feels like wisdom, but I know it is also weakness.

It requires strength to share our stories. To risk being misunderstood.

It requires faith to tell small stories. To believe that what seems to be inadequate is of value.

When my fourth child was born, my body struggled to make milk for her. The hormonal peaks and valleys of that process seemed to switch a lever in my brain.

I became depressed.

I had so many reasons to be happy, but depression sucked all emotion from my mind and filled the emptiness with anxiety. I can remember sitting in my comfortable, soft rocking chair, holding my baby, and trying to remember why I had once cared about babies or repairing old farmhouses or ordering seeds for the spring garden or anything at all. I could no longer remember why it mattered if any of us ever got out of bed.

When I stopped trying to nurse my baby, and the last of my milk dried up, the depression lifted. A severe mercy.

It meant that I knew happiness again.

It meant that I knew sadness again.

Healing looked like a renewed capacity for both joy and sorrow.

This morning I read these words from Psalm 105:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;

make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him;

tell of all his wonderful acts.

And I remembered what had happened to me after my daughter’s birth and knew that I did have a song of praise.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for healing me enough to grieve.



Advent (Day 3)

On Thursday, we said thank you around the table.

We passed the big bowl with potatoes like mountain peaks. We passed the medium-sized bowl with its cranberry jewels. We passed the tiny, wooden bowl. Three times we passed that particular bowl, and three times we tipped in our little kernels of corn. With each kernel came a thank you.

I said thank you for friends, and books, and old maple trees. The little boy said thank you for toys. The bigger boy said thank you for Jesus.

And so we entered Advent on a tidal wave of gratitude, every thank you deeply meant.




But now it is so dark, and gratitude has slipped through my fingers.

Every good gift from this past year seems to have its tarnished edge, and I am weary. Weary of sifting good from bad, blessing from burden.

This old farmhouse is a promise fulfilled. We wandered, but He brought us home. But … the pipes leak, too many old maples were lost in a storm, and this is farming country – some days I can’t breathe for the manure in the air.

The baby is a good and perfect gift. Beautiful. Much loved. With her came depression. Two months of panic and tears. Now I tremble remembering those days and pray God, don’t let that darkness ever come back. And my heart is broken for all who live within that fog for years.

So many dreams are coming true, but they are being realized in dust and dirt and darkness. And some part of me knows the bigger story. It begins in a stable but ends with streets of gold.

There are no streets of gold in my neighborhood. There’s a diaper pail. A filthy chicken coop. Kitchen scraps left to rot.

But I am done with sifting.

Done trying to untangle the knots of good and bad, done naming one thing a gift, another a curse.

I am dust myself, but I breathe with God’s own breath, and I am using that breath to say thank you.

Thank you for all of it.

The mess. The smell. The compost under my nails, and the dishes in the sink.

I say thank you because our God has never despised the dirt, and he once wrapped himself in dust.

He is our God with dirt under his nails, and he is near.

God with us.


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