Understanding The Connection Between Grief And Depression

in Understanding Depression

Grief

While grief can certainly contribute to depression, there is a fundamental difference between depression and grief. Grief is pain and sadness that is a normal response to any kind of loss.

Most often, we think of grief in terms of loss of a loved one, but any major life change can cause grief. For example, a person may experience grief as the result of any of the following:

  • Loss of a job
  • Failure of a business venture
  • Foreclosure on a home
  • Empty nest syndrome
  • Divorce
  • Retirement

QuestionHow Do Healthy People Cope With Grief?

For people with normal coping skills, grief is usually a temporary experience that heals over time. In such cases, grieving people continue to function and are able to heal after mourning their loss.

In addition to healthy coping skills, having adequate support also helps people to overcome grief.

RiskGrief Can Exacerbate Or Turn Into Depression

If a person suffers a major loss and does not have healthy coping skills or adequate support, the pain and sadness of grief can linger and become full blown clinical depression.

In addition, a person who is already suffering from depression may have an especially hard time dealing with a significant loss and overcoming grief.

The Normal Stages Of Grief

Psychologists recognize a series of stages that people go through when they suffer a loss. There are five stages of grief.

1. Denial

A person will often react to a loss with disbelief and may refuse to accept it’s reality at first. This can actually serve a purpose by reducing the effect of the initial shock of learning of a loss.

2. Anger

Many grieving people become angry when they realize that they are powerless to change the reality of the loss.

3. Bargaining

In the third stage of grief, people tend to have obsessive thoughts about how a loss could have been prevented or what can be done to change the situation.

4. Depression

The term depression here really refers to the normal feelings of sadness that accompany grief. However, the grieving person will experience the same symptoms that are associated with clinical depression, such as loss of energy, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, withdrawal and intense sadness.

5. Acceptance

At this stage, grief begins to resolve as the person accepts the loss and begins to deal with its consequences.

How Grief Can Become Full Blown Depression

Grief can turn into depression in a few ways. If the process of grief is not allowed to unfold naturally, it can eventually turn into chronic depression. Allowing emotions to surface in a time of grief is important.

Avoiding the pain by distracting oneself with alcohol, work or trying too hard to “be strong” increases the likelihood of experiencing full blown depression after a loss, especially in people who are vulnerable to the condition.

StepsSteps You Can Take To Work Through Grief And Avoid Depression

There are a number of ways to deal with grief so that it does not snowball into a chronic case of depression.

• Talk about your feelings

• Give yourself time to heal

• Find a support, such as a bereavement group or a trusted friend who understands what you are going through

• Talk to a counselor if necessary

• If you are a member of a church or spiritual community, turn to that community for support

How To Tell The Difference Between Grief And Depression

How To TellGrief is a normal response to loss. Depression is a more persistent problem that can start as grief. Some useful ways to distinguish between grief and depression are listed below.

• People who are experiencing grief are usually aware of and able to acknowledge their feelings, while people who suffer from depression may be unaware of their feelings and may deny that there is anything wrong.

• A person suffering from grief is more likely to respond favorably to outreach and offers of support from others; people with depression are often more difficult to console.

• Grief usually involves preoccupation with the person or thing that was lost, while depressed individuals are more likely to focus on themselves.

• Depression lasts longer than grief.

• Depressed people exhibit distorted thinking patterns, while grieving people usually maintain the ability to think rationally.

• Agitation and restlessness is more common with grief, while lethargy, numbness and extreme fatigue are more common with depression.

• A grieving person’s mood will fluctuate while a depressed person’s mood will remain low.

• Others may find it easier to empathize with someone who is grieving, while they may feel irritated and impatient with a person who is depressed.

Next StepDealing With Grief

Even though depression and grief differ, with grief being a normal response to loss, many individuals need help in dealing with grief.

If you are someone you love has suffered a major loss, allow time for the healing process to take place.

However, if a month or more goes by and there is no improvement in grief-related symptoms, consider talking to a professional grief counselor for help so that grief does not turn into depression.

Depression bookIf you find yourself struggling with chronic depression as a result of grief, you may find some help in the ebook “End Your Depression.”

This book is a comprehensive guide to understanding and managing clinical depression.

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