As we move into the dark time of the year, the sun sinks lower, leaves fall from the trees, and nights grow long and cold. It’s easy to feel depressed. But this article is not about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It’s about how to be truly present, and in that way perhaps be able to help a seriously depressed loved one.
There’s a huge difference between clinical depression and simply feeling “down.” Clinical depression often requires professional treatment. But in our everyday world, a person with any form of depression, whether clinical or non-clinical, can respond to empathy. Real empathy doesn’t try to fix, downplay, or remove the pain our loved one may be feeling. It simply holds the space for that person to express whatever needs to be expressed. We may not have a solution, but we can still be there for our family member or friend, and often that alone helps.
My first teacher at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Kate Wolf-Pizor, used to say “What people need is a good listening to!” Listening from the heart is a skill that may take some time and patience to develop, but it’s well worth the effort. If we can let go of our own agenda– even though we’re very worried about our loved one– and simply listen, we can do a world of good.