Death. Grief. Mourning. It may feel like nothing can stop the pain.
Grief has the ability to bring about intense emotions of sadness and despair that, for some, can easily spiral into a period of depression that’s not easy to work through.
“Grief can be a trigger of depression, but everyone that grieves does not experience depression.”
For many people, often those who already struggle with depression, dealing with the loss of a loved one can lead to depression or worsen current symptoms.
Because many of the emotions experienced during grief and depression are similar and overlap, it’s important that we first distinguish what is the difference between grief and depression.
Symptoms experienced by most people that grieve are quite similar to those of depression, such as intense feelings of sadness and a tendency to withdraw from social settings. However, — these two are not one and the same.
It’s important to understand the difference between grief and depression in order to identify it in case you or a loved one ever deals with this issue. Three areas that need to be considered, include:
1. Duration of symptoms
A person who is grieving the loss of a loved one will have waves of intense sadness and other feelings. After some time has passed, the symptoms lessen. Even in the immediate grieving period following a loss, normal grief does not cause the extreme sadness, continuously.
People that are dealing with depression typically feel depressed nearly all the time. All hours of the day. Even months following the loss. Depression is ever present throughout the individual’s daily life.
2. Acceptance of support
Isolation is typical for both grieving and depressed people, however, those with depression often take this to extremes. Someone who is depressed will often completely isolate themselves, even from their closest friends, and shun others. When offered support or condolences, a depressed individual will often avoid or refuse the offer. On the other hand, a person who is grieving will still likely avoid large social settings, but they are typically more accepting of support and help from their closed loved ones.
3. Ability to function
A person who is grieving may still be able to function in their daily life, by doing things such as going to school or work. In fact, often times the bereaved report feelings of coping when doing these routine tasks that help to occupy their mind and not focus on their loss. However, people that struggle with depression, the symptoms may be so severe that they are unable to attend school, work, etc.
How does one avoid falling into the swamps of sadness and experiencing clinical depression following grief?
As we did not have the answer, we sought our expert advice from the experienced psychotherapist, Mark Tyrell, who founded the company Uncommon Knowledge (www.unk.com) in 1998.
As kind as he is, we submitted a few questions to Mark, which he provided a prompt and thorough explanation to some of our biggest questions, such as:
1. What is the number one myth in regard to grief?
“Probably that it inevitably follows some kind of clear and delineated order of process. Different people grieve in different ways and some people who have had to grieve many times seem to actually do it faster than people who are grieving for the first time.
“Another myth is that trauma around the death of a loved one is part of a natural grieving process. What we find is that if we can remove any post-traumatic stress disorder as connected to the death of someone close then the person actually becomes free to grieve properly rather than just locked in a state of horror.”
2. What would be the psychological function of the feeling that losing a loved one gives you?
“If we are looking at positive aspects of grief, and without wanting to be glib about this because the sadness can feel unbearable for some people, I would say it gives people the chance to honour their loved one and also appreciate the fleeting nature of life and the impermanence of those around them. Research has found that reflection on one’s own mortality can actually make people happier!”
3. Would you have practical general advice on how to prevent depression following grief?
Mark warns those who are grieving to not get caught up in their imagination and project in the future that life cannot go on without this person. Focus on self-care and continue to meet your needs as much as possible for the following:
4. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?
“I initially worked with severely psychotic and depressed and addicted patients on psychiatric wards (known as “locked wards” because the patients were deemed a threat to themselves and/or other people).
“I always felt there must be a better way to help people and retrained as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist I eventually ran classes, ran a diploma course for other professionals and now run online training and also the worlds the biggest hypnosis downloads site. I have a Human “Given background and have a special interest in treating depression and trauma.”