Grief + Depression
When we lose our babies we feel deep grief. We feel shock, anger, sadness, confusion. I remember when I lost my daughter Selah, there were many days of feeling like I just wanted to stay in bed and not deal with all of life’s “normal” daily activities. If you have experienced this type of loss, then you know that these emotions can continue for a long time. It is not uncommon for people to question whether or not the feelings are sadness they are experiencing are just that or if those feelings could actually be classified as depression. The majority of people will experience emotional, mental, and physical symptoms that are attributed to “normal” grief in the aftermath of loss. However, symptoms of grief can turn into depression if not properly expressed or dealt with; which calls for seeking out more help, possibly therapy or medication. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the difference between each.
Grief is a natural response to loss, and while it is unique to each individual, it may include changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, tearfulness, feelings of hopelessness, anger with yourself or God, difficulty concentrating, suicidal thoughts or actions, and/or loss of interest in work or activities. However, while grief symptoms may ebb and flow, varying in intensity and frequency over days and weeks, depression is a clinical, long-term disorder with no clear boundaries. While a person with grief usually focuses on external circumstances related to their loss, someone experiencing depression will mostly be focused inward on themselves—experiencing self-doubt, negative feelings, and worthlessness. In contrast to grief, depression is a constant feeling of sadness which may stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are also many types of depression with some people feeling the symptoms briefly or some over a period of many years. Losing your baby, missing your baby, wanting your baby back; you have an idea of where this gut wrenching grief is stemming from helping to distinguish between grief and depression.
Additionally, while depression can be treated with psychotherapy and/or medication, grief will not be “cured” or “solved” through any pill. However, it is important to remember that whether you or a loved one are experiencing grief, depression, or a combination of both; understanding is key. For the individual who is suffering, any distinction is purely semantic. The effects are equally challenging, and the impact on one’s life is unquestionable. Support from friends and family, psychotherapy, or even support groups with people experiencing these similar situations remain invaluable, regardless of any specific diagnosis. Check out this chart below from a Unity Point Health Care informational brochure that illuminates some key symptoms and the differences between the two.
Please reach out to me if you have more questions about grief, depression, or both.
Jade Spielman, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Ankeny, Iowa. She has been a therapist for about 13 years, with a focus on grief, loss, and bereavement. firstname.lastname@example.org