There is a specific tool for understanding what families are going through and how to understand their process. First, we must look at the heart of God and His grace.
In Matthew 22:34-38, Jesus got into a boat and went off to a secluded place to be alone after learning of John the Baptist's death. The crowds often followed Jesus and after some time, Jesus returned to find the crowds waiting for Him. Jesus was full of compassion and ministered to the sick and later, provided the miracle of feeding 5,000 hungry people.
Throughout the Bible, grieving after death was important, which was often referred to as “mourning.” God knew people needed time to properly mourn or grieve because that is how they would receive comfort and continue on with life. Learning and dealing with your loved one's mental illness also causes you to grieve the loss of how you once knew them to be. Having proper understanding and time will give you the comfort needed and, like Jesus, help you to continue being compassionate and minster life to your loved ones and others.
- Grieving is a process and takes time.
- Help them find a community to help bring comfort, encouragement, and practical help (Grace Groups help with this – contact Mental Health Grace Alliance for more info).
- If their own health is affected (sleep, diet, energy) they may have what is called a “situational depression.” The circumstances are overwhelming and professional counseling and even some medicine might be necessary for a short period of time.
Here is a look at the process a family will go through dealing with mental illness. As a pastor or church leader this will help you pastoring families affected by mental illness.
- Elevated blood rush
- Faster breathing, but then settles
- At times feeling confused and not able to think clearly; There is no real ability to even process the information
- Going through the motions of life and what ever is true emotionally is suppressed or unable to surface
- There are also feelings of denial, avoiding the topic with others
TYPICAL REACTION: survival, fix-it naturally and spiritually, denial, or rationalizing which can lead to isolation.
NEED: Community love and support. Most of all, you need a supportive and listening ear! Do simple research about your loved ones diagnosis. Begin to understand it is a disorder, not your fault or your loved one.
SADNESS & ANGER
- Overwhelming sadness, discouragement, and disappointment (loss of motivation, energy – depressive)
- Resentment and anger with circumstances that have occured (unforgiveness, bitterness)
TYPICAL REACTION: Avoidance and isolation, vengeful (I'll teach them a lesson), and arguing and blaming self, others, and God.
NEED: Community love and support. Supportive and listening ear to vent hurt/wounding, not fix you. Begin to understand the pain is from the disorder, not personal to you or themselves. Continue learning about the mental illness, God's perspective, and practical tools and support (Grace Group can help with resources and tools).
~ (Sadness/Anger) and (Guilt/Shame) can feel simultaneously or cycle back and forth ~
GUILT & SHAME
- Discouragement continues, but now feeling hopeless and helpless (low energy – depressive)
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Shame from circumstances and stigma affecting self-worth for yourself, marriage, and family
- Guilt, fault finding within self or seeing this as God’s judgment for weak faith, sin, or cursed (leads back to anger)
- False philosophy of God or self, trying to answer why this is happening out of human reasoning
TYPICAL REACTION: Avoidance and isolation, take on false views of self and of God, look down upon yourself and your loved one with no hope, going through the motions with no energy, and no breaks caring for loved one.
NEED: Community love and encouragement. Close friend or professional counselor to help you process emotions. Review identity in God and focus on Gods goodness not philosophy of why. Continue learning Gods perspective with mental illness and keep practicing tools. Depending on circumstances, situational depression and may need some medicine to help regain energy level (consult professional counselor and/or family doctor).
- Feel tender, but no sting or strong pain
- Resolved about your loved one and helpful with solutions no longer trying to fix them
- Good understanding of mental illness and Gods heart and perspective
- Able to converse with others about your loved one even help others
NEED: Community love and encouragement. Exploring and growing in your knowledge and practical tools with your loved ones illness. Advocating to helping others. Be a part of a Grace Group or start one with others.
Families Dealing with Mental Illness from the article Pastoring Families Dealing with Mental Illness by Joe Padilla