Written By: Stacy Knapp (Director of Network Relations)
Two weeks ago we shared a personal and honest journal entry
from an artist who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. As I reflected on what he shared there were a couple of statements he made that helped me see things in a deeper way:
“After more than 10 years of dealing with depression in its most extreme forms I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not solely a physical, or emotional problem. For me, it is also a spiritual problem.”
It is no wonder that depression is complicated. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington were complicated just as each of us is in our own way. We are not just physical beings. We are not just emotional beings, nor are we just spiritual beings. We are all of these in one whole person, so we must consider all of these areas when dealing with depression.
Along with depression, grieving the loss of someone to suicide can get complicated especially when we’re watching on the outside attempting to figure out why someone would do it. There are all kinds of emotions that rise to the surface when we learn about the suicide of someone we know or even someone we admire or respect like Cornell and Bennington. To some of us their lyrics pierced our soul because it felt like they knew exactly what we were going through. There are many facets of grief: disbelief, sadness, anger, envy, helplessness, emptiness, fear and the list goes on. Then there are the unanswered questions of “Why did she do that?” or “What was so bad that he couldn’t cope?” And then there are the questions about ourselves of “Is there something wrong with me that I’m crying for the loss of someone I didn’t even personally know?” or “Am I weird that I don’t feel anything?” Whatever the questions we ask, grief is a personal thing and we express it in different ways. It is complicated.
“Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. I want to stop the mental health stigma and start being authentic. There is healing power in non judgmental community, and we need to break down those barriers and just be real with each other, because love is all we have.”
Whether you’re questioning your mental health or walking through grief, reaching out to a professional therapist or counselor is a good step. If you’re not ready to do that, then finding a “safe person” for help is an option. You may be asking, “How do I know if someone is a safe person?”
Important characteristics to look for in a safe person
Trusted – Do others trust them? Think about who has been a trusted help in the lives of others.
Present/Good listener – Not only being physically present to listen to you, but are they able to focus on being in the moment with you without distractions? Sometimes you just need to know that someone is available, but there are other times when you need a listening ear.
Peaceful – Are they the type of person that brings peace to what may seem to be chaotic situations? They may not be able to change the situation but they may be a person who makes everyone feel at peace when they are around.
Compassionate – Are they sympathetic, caring and understanding? Your feelings are real and this is not the time for someone to act judgmental towards you, but it’s the time for your feelings to be validated.
Perhaps as you’ve read through this list you recognize these characteristics in yourself. If so, please consider looking out for people who may need a safe person. It can be just reaching out with a phone call or just a text message saying “I’m here.” It could be the offering to just sit quietly across from the person and “just be.”
As a licensed Chaplain I consider it a blessing to care for the unique spiritual, emotional and physical needs of anyone God connects me to. From being available for someone who is dealing with depression, to sitting with someone in the midst of their grieving, I know God has called me to be a safe person. If there’s anything you’ve read in this post that you’d like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to contact me: Stacy@ryfo.org. If you would like to respond to this post anonymously you can send RYFO a message via Sarahah.
When you have been depressed or grieved the loss of someone, was there a person in your life who was a safe person? If yes, how so?
How can you be a safe person to someone who is grieving?