I do know the difference, in my own life, between sadness (a feeling) grief (also a feeling, more painful than sadness) and depression (a hideous mental illness, which I experience as The Pit).
But I still couldn't get away from The Pit. The mouth of The Pit has slippery, sloping sides, and I knew that I could lose my balance and fall at any moment. Some days, I did fall, but the medications kept me from falling too deeply into The Pit. I was in therapy by this point, and therapy was teaching me how to chart a course up the side of the mouth of The Pit, how to keep my balance as I followed this course, and how to recognize when I was in danger of losing my balance.
Eventually, there came a time when The Pit was no longer a constant presence in my life. I hadn't fallen into The Pit in years. I had finally clambered over its edge, leaving even the mouth of The Pit. I knew it was there, and always would be there, but I had learned how to keep my distance from it. One of the ways I knew I was recovering was that, during those terrible six months of death and bereavement, I never felt that I was even coming close to The Pit.
What a victory! To endure such pain, and to find that it didn't drag me back into a depression! How did I achieve this? What were my coping mechanisms?
Well, those bring us full-circle, back to sadness and grief. I survived my grief by grieving. I cut back on some of my social activities, but at the same time I reached out to friends for support. I talked about my loss. Most importantly, through the worst of the pain, I kept telling myself, this is OK. It's OK that grief hurts. It's OK that loss results in sadness. Crying is cleansing. Grief, sadness, bereavement -- these are all cathartic. We feel better when we express them. These feelings allow us to mourn our loss, and in time, to come to terms with it.
There is no catharsis in The Pit. There is only anguish, misery, and despair. There is only falling.