Depression iib: Coping with life’s ‘deeper troughs’.

Following on from my last blog (which I am assuming you have already read); one summer’s evening just after tea, Stephen kept an appointment to attend my clinic and we talked for a while, reviewing his recent activities, thoughts, feelings etc. Yes, he could still enjoy some things in life; for example sunrise, (he had apparently always been an early riser): also, the feeling (as he described it to me) of “the nearness” and support of Marjorie as they lay in bed at night, even when she was fast asleep. Above all, he found solace and support when visiting (as apparently, he did regularly) “a little meadow” as he first described it to me, where in happier times they had played and picnicked with little Gillian and where more recently, he and Marjorie had together, scattered their daughter’s ashes. “In fact”, he added, “I plan to spend a little time there on my way home this evening”.

As it happened, I had earlier learned that my final patient for that day had cancelled and re-scheduled her appointment for another date. I therefore ventured, “Look, I truly do not want to intrude and I shall understand if you would rather not; but would you like me to come with you?” Stephen jumped at the chance; that is the only way I can put it. I followed him in my car, eventually parking on more of a piece of wayside than a lay-by.

Stephen and I strolled together side by side in silence and then I gently enquired of him; “Would you prefer just to be alone for a wee while with Gillian?” The tears streamed down his face as he nodded and I quietly walked away, I suppose, in my own way, trying to solicit help for him from, shall we just say, “another quarter. Some fifteen minutes or so later, I returned to where Stephen was sitting, on a felled tree trunk, head in hands. I sat quietly beside him and for a moment he just gripped my arm. It was he who spoke first, inquiring; “How did you know…you know, that I sometimes talk to Gillian when I come here?” “Well maybe”, I replied, “it is because from being a child at the time of their deaths, I have talked to my own dear departed sisters in similar fashion and also, since then, to other dear ones who have moved on from this life, as well”. It was like taking a cork out of a bottle of fizzy drink. Stephen talked – and cried –and talked, non-stop for about half an hour. Still I elected to say ‘less rather than more’ and at length we departed and made our separate ways home.

What I had learned, among other things that evening about Stephen was of his continuance to experience powerful elements of unresolved sorrow and grief, at the loss of Gillian. In my own processes of thought, I had hypothesized, (had a hunch if you prefer that term) that this might well be somehow lying near the heart of Stephen’s present problems and in particular, his inability to accept his son, as we all knew he dearly wished to do, if you see what I mean. Given Ben’s arrival so shortly after Gillian’s death and then his own illness, with all that that had entailed, there had scarcely been time to mourn the loss of and say a fond “goodbye” to his darling little daughter.

Over the weeks that followed, I was to discover that Marjorie too had been secretly experiencing similar problems, which happily we were able to discuss as a threesome and gradually work through. What I can tell you is that Stephen, Marjorie and Ben are now – to the best of my knowledge – a family once more, at least they were when I last heard of them, admittedly some years ago now; and I really do have confidence in the prospect of their continuing well-being, both individually and as a family unit.

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