Grief or Depression?

Monday, October, 31, 2011

Understanding grief

The experience of grief is a perfectly normal and even healthy reaction following the loss of a loved one. 

While every person processes grief in their own way, common symptoms of bereavement include:

• Feelings of sadness, despair, guilt or hopelessness

• Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

• Lack of energy

• Inability to concentrate 

• Preoccupation with sadness

• The urge seek out and hang on to items that remind you of the deceased

Especially if you’ve never before experienced such a loss, the feelings that arise during the mourning process may feel unfamiliar and surprisingly intense. 

In fact, the deep sadness you feel as a result of your loved one’s passing may last a lifetime. However, eventually your mind will adapt and permit you to adjust to and accept the loss. You’ll find that your feelings of grief will become less intense and more intermittent as time passes, and you’ll begin to enjoy life again and start making positive plans for the future. 

Recognizing depression

If you experience any of the following additional symptoms as you progress through the grieving process, it may be a sign that you are clinically depressed or are having a major depressive episode:

• Feelings of intense grief lasting four or more months with no sign of improvement 

• Deep, pervasive sadness

• Prolonged inability to resume normal daily routines and activities

• Tendency to stay in bed all day

• Inability to experience pleasure or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

• Feelings of powerlessness or helplessness

• Low self-esteem or self-confidence

• Nagging feelings of guilt not related to the loss of your loved one

• Magnification of physical aches and pains (such as those associated with arthritis)

• Noticeable changes in appetite and weight 

• Insomnia or chronic sleep difficulties 

• Abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription  medication

• Thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death

Furthermore, there are certain factors that can put you at greater risk for depression. These include:

• Previous experience of a major depressive episode

• Little previous experience with death

• Lack of a social support network

• History of alcohol or drug abuse

If you recognize any of these signs and risk factors in yourself, it’s critical to seek help right away, whether from a mental health professional, doctor or clergyman. 

Depression is highly treatable, and modern medications are safe, effective and have far fewer side effects than ever before. By seeking help, you can restore your quality of life and well-being.

We’re here for you.

The chaplains, counselors, social workers and volunteers of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County are here to provide support, compassion and reassurance to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. 

Our ongoing grief and loss support groups are open to all in our community at no cost. We also offer specialized one-on-one counseling, support groups and other activities to help children and adolescents understand and cope with feelings of grief. 

For more information or to register for any of these groups, please contact Randy Berryhill at 704-873-4719, ext. 4353.


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