Many people were jolted by the sudden news of the death of Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who was found dead in a hotel recently, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot. Boss served as co-host of the Ellen DeGeneres Show for many years.
Perhaps the biggest reason we are stunned is because we tend to look at people like Boss, and say no, not him. Especially when, if media reports are accurate, Boss showed no outward signs of distress in the days leading up to his death.
The fact is though, Boss’s untimely death forces us to revisit a phenomenon that is quite evident during the fall season and is likely a significant factor in suicides this time of the year.
Memories. We have all been there. Many of us are there right now. It’s fall. Temps have dropped. Days are shorter. Sunlight is occasional. At family gatherings, a chair remains empty. To occupy it is forbidden.
In an almost humorous way, we call it a case of the ‘seasonal blues’ or that time of year when the absence of a dearly departed loved resonates. Mom. Dad. A sibling or uncle or auntie. Or maybe a childhood friend.
The scientific term is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., a word coined by researchers in 1984 meant to cover a wide range of emotions, memories and feelings associated with loss and grief. It may not be just grief. It could also be the whimsical musing about the direction in which our lives are heading. Whatever the case, approximately fourteen percent of people are diagnosed with some form of S.A.D. each year.
I bet its way more than 14%! Consider the sheer number of people who do not self-report feelings associated with grief or a morbid preoccupation with their life’s present status. That’s why it is important not to judge outward appearances. People who are peppy and lively aren’t necessarily “happy”. People who are quiet and withdrawn aren’t necessarily “sad”. Instead of disposition, seek to minister to the context of the inner person.
And then, what do people stricken by this phenomenon (I hesitate to call it a ‘disorder’ since it is quite an orderly function of the human psyche) do to cope? Meds? Alcohol? Sex? All the above? A recent article, Bustle points to a scientific motivation in the winter proclivity to “cuddle” with the opposite sex. The Urban Dictionary calls it “cuffing”, describing “people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves desiring to be tied down by a serious relationship.” All sorts of coping mechanisms are available.
Here's a biblical prescription for seasonal blues. Loss is hard. Grief is tough. As I write this article, memories surround me of my mother and dad. Gone to soon. Missed so deeply. God’s word is my comfort. It should be yours, as well. Not just for grief alone, but for a break-up, divorce, illness, job loss or just tough times.
This is what God says:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
God knows your grief because God made you. And since God made you, He knows the ratio of your strength to weakness. That’s where His grace comes in. He gives us the strength to bear up under maximum anxiety. Realize that it is not your strength that sustains you, but rather the divine might that is in you.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Grief can become a paralyzing emotion if we allow it. But we are human. God’s Spirit, though, intercedes in those moments when we are so flabbergasted that we simply do not have the strength to even pray. His Spirit prays in our spirit, thereby mediating for us at a moment of overwhelming weakness. The Holy Spirit, in this office, acts as a decoder of our thoughts.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
Here, to me, is the apex of the biblical argument for how believers are to handle grief and loss. In many ways, we are like the rest of grieving humanity in that we feel loss, sadness, a lack of understanding as to why and so on. But this verse separates us from the world and is summed up by one word: hope. We believe we will see our loved ones again through the work of Christ. A Negro spiritual refers to it as that “great getting up morning”!
Personal strength. Intercession. Hope. Those three pillars form the biblical prescription for seasonal blues.
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