Loss comes in many shapes and forms: maybe you lost your home, your job, your pet, a friend, a loved one, your financial stability, your safety, or maybe you just retired. All these life events can be a challenge to our emotional, mental and physical stability.
When grieving, it is normal to experience:
- sadness and crying
- changes in sleep patterns, energy levels and appetite
- difficulty with concentration
- moments of anger and loneliness
Maybe after a few weeks, a few months, you've started to wonder if what you're experiencing is normal grief or if it's turning into depression. Because depression and grief have a lot in common, they can be difficult to differentiate.
What grief and depression have in common
Grief shares several symptoms with a major depressive disorder:
- intense sadness
- poor appetite
- weight loss
What separates grief from depression
Grief tends to decrease over time and occurs in waves that are triggered by thoughts or reminders of the loss you experienced. In other words, you may feel relatively better while in certain situations, such as when friends and family are around to support you. But triggers, like the deceased loved one's birthday, a smell, a place, a word... could cause the feelings to resurface more strongly.
Major depression, on the other hand, tends to be more persistent and pervasive. An exception to this would be atypical depression, in which positive events can bring about an improvement in mood with symptoms that are the opposite of those commonly experienced with grief.
Other clues leaning towards major depressive disorder
- Guilt unrelated to the loved one's death or other losses
- Thoughts of suicide (although in grief there may be thoughts of "joining" the deceased)
- Morbid preoccupation with worthlessness (grief does not usually erode self-confidence)
- Sluggishness or hesitant and confused speech
- Prolonged and marked difficulty in carrying out daily activities
- Hallucinations and delusions; (however, some people in grief may have the sensation of seeing or hearing the dead person)
If you are wondering if you are experiencing grief or depression, it is very important to talk to your loved ones and find a caring therapist who can help you.
Copyright: hramovnick / 123RF Stock Photo
About the author: Valerie Abitbol, LMFT, owner of Flow Counseling, PLLC is a counselor and therapist in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in helping her clients decrease stress and anxiety and process grief and trauma in order to create a peaceful and balanced life. Valerie provides counseling to adults and couples to help them heal, succeed, and grow happiness.