Grief can be a very unpredictable ride. Often, it looks and feels much different than it is portrayed in films or books. Grief does have its stages but those stages rarely follow a predetermined path.
Additionally, the way grief is experienced and processed can vary widely from person to person. Amidst all this uncertainty is the link between grief and depression. Everyone suffers losses. Depression is an increasingly common disorder. The intersection between these two realities should not be taken lightly.
Depression is Much More Than Feeling Sad
We all find ourselves feeling down at times. We may even announce to others that we “feel depressed.” However, depression is more than feeling blue. It is a diagnosable mental health condition that goes far beyond moments of sadness. A depressive disorder often presents with symptoms like:
- Social isolation
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Loss of interest in activities that once excited you
- Weight gain or loss
- Reduced concentration
- A sense of hopelessness
- Chronic thoughts of death, dying, and suicide
There Are Many Reasons Why We Grieve
The term “loss” is most often associated with death. However, humans grieve after a wide range of life-altering or traumatic events. A few examples include:
- Divorce, separation, or other break-ups
- Job loss, financial crisis, or retirement
- Injury, illness, or victimization by crime
- Physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
- Relocation or abandonment
- Accident or natural disaster
- Graduation or dropping out of school
Additionally, many of us grieve the loss of far more abstract concepts, e.g. the loss of one’s youth, innocence, or self-identity. Bear in mind that grief can be pervasive yet somewhat invisible. In that sense, it is a common yet unexamined trigger for depression.
5 Key Ways Grief and Loss May Be Fueling Your Depression
1.You Just Can’t Function or Move Forward
When grieving, you may find yourself thinking intensely about the loss and memories of pre-loss times. As this transitions into depression, you may feel unable to shift or adjust emotionally. Sadness, shame, or morbid thoughts about your loss may repeat, exhaustively, in your mind. Day to day function may suffer.
2. Connection and Comfort Give Way to Isolation
A grieving person typically finds solace when others comfort them. A depressed person will withdraw into self-isolation. Isolation, in turn, can further a cycle of low mood and disconnect. This complicates grief and worsens depression symptoms.
3. Feelings of Loss Become Generalized
Let’s say you are suffering the loss of a loved one. Grief prompts you to focus sharply on the person and your relationship. If grief triggers depression, your feelings grow increasingly generalized. Overall hopelessness and fatigue often result.
4. You Judge Yourself Too Harshly
Sometimes beliefs about the “right” way to express grief get in the way of healthy expression. Forcing yourself to conform to other people’s timeline or ideas about recovery can be damaging to your self-image. Depression may result as self-judgment feeds low self-esteem, despair, and even self-harm.
5. Feeling “Stuck” in Your Emotions
In times of bereavement, the dominant emotion may be sorrow. However, this rarely means sorrow is your sole experience. Anger, regret, guilt, and more are very common. On the other hand, a person struggling with grief-fueled depression will describe a sort of “numbness.” Or, such a person may get stuck in a single emotion. They might feel unable to tap into other feelings or experience much relief.
You Don’t Have to Grieve Alone
Unexpressed and unprocessed grief can become complicated and unproductive. It can last a long time and contribute to the likelihood of depression. Of course, there are self-help steps you can and should take. However, the combination of bereavement and depression is best not tackled alone.
Finally, when dealing with a loss, counseling is a self-loving and preventative choice. Working with a therapist gives you the chance to investigate your feelings and their causes. Connections and insights about how they contribute to your grief will be explored. Recovery and healing can happen with commitment and support. I’m here to help. Please read more about depression treatment and contact me soon for a consultation.