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Dealing with depression

Free presentation on tools and skills needed for dealing with grief

Posted: March 10, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 10, 2013 2:00 a.m.

In a popular movie about high school, a girl escorts a new student through the cafeteria and says, “There are the girls who don’t eat anything, and there are the girls who eat their feelings.”

The anguish and agony of rejection, separation, neglect, abuse and emotional manipulation can be paralyzing. Stuffing our feelings seems to come so naturally.

The Latin root of depression is “pressed down,” but stuffed emotions don’t just dissipate.

“They return to haunt us in the form of lowered energy and feeling like we’re helpless and hopeless,” said grief counselor Jeff Zhorne, M.A.

Loss and grief events can stem from early childhood.

“If we were taught and trained to acquire things — and not how to cope with losing anything — little wonder we head to psychiatrists for depression prescriptions,” said Zhorne, director of The Grief Program. “Many are unaware that these medications are only intended as short-term relief until underlying issues can be resolved. The emotions may be masked, but the hurt remains.”

Unresolved grief has a tendency to drain us of all energy, and loss of energy is a common reaction to grief, said Zhorne.

“Like a thermostat, the body shuts down when it reaches saturation and wants to go to sleep,” Zhorne said. “We can call this depression, but oftentimes the root is unresolved loss.”

As a society we used to call this ball of hurt “pressure,” said Zhorne.

Then it became free-floating anxiety. In the 1970s the culture changed it to stress.

“About six months after stress became the buzz term, guess what showed up on supermarket shelves? Stress Tabs. Eat a pill, fix your life,” Zhorne said. “Unfortunately, people will do almost anything to avoid dealing with unresolved grief.”

As the late author Henri Nouwen penned: “Our first, most spontaneous response to pain and suffering is to avoid it, to keep it at arm’s length; to ignore, circumvent or deny it. Suffering — be it physical, mental or emotional — is almost always experienced as an unwelcome intrusion into our lives, something that should not be there.”

Zhorne believes the pain won’t go away by itself and that no one can recover alone.

“The solution cannot be simply talking about our loss and grief issues either.”

He tells clients that if talking were enough to resolve unresolved loss experiences, “they could get their BFF, go to Starbucks and tell the unabridged version of what happened. Talking may help us feel better for a while, but the pain always seems to snap back like a rubber band.”

Zhorne believes the key is communicating the undelivered emotional truth in an atmosphere of respect, dignity and safety, without judgment, criticism or evaluation.

“We cannot off load the weight of unresolved grief without this type of acceptance; we can only shift the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other,” he said. “Grieving people aren’t broken, they don’t need to be fixed. They need to be listened to with dignity, honor and respect.”

A free community presentation on the tools and skills needed for working through significant emotional loss, such as loss of a loved one, divorce or other losses, will be held 7 p.m., Thursday, March 14. The event will be conducted at Action Family Counseling, 22722 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country.

For more information, call 661-733-0692 or visit


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