Grief and depression
When you lose someone or something dear to you, it's natural to feel pain
and grief. The grief process is a very normal response, and most people
experience it. But when grief encompasses your life and you begin to feel
hopeless, helpless, and worthless, then it's time to talk to your doctor about
grief and depression.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural response to death or loss. Each year, between 5% and 9%
of people sustain the loss of a close family member. But that's not the only
kind of loss that can cause grief. People can feel loss when:
- A loved one dies
- They become separated from a loved one
- They lose a job, position, or income
- A pet dies or runs away
- Children leave home
- They experience a major change in life such as getting a divorce, moving,
becoming an "empty nester" or retiring
While we all experience grief and loss, each of us is unique in the ways we
cope with our feelings.
Some people have healthy coping skills. They are able to experience grief
without losing sight of their daily responsibilities. The grieving process is
an opportunity for someone to appropriately mourn a loss and then heal. It's
facilitated by acknowledging grief, allowing time for grief to work, and
Other people, however, don't have the coping mechanisms or support they
need. That lack actually hinders the grieving process.
How do people react to grief or loss?
There are specific stages of grief. They reflect common reactions people
have as they try to make sense of a loss. An important part of the healing
process is experiencing and accepting the feelings that come as a result of the
loss. Here are the common stages of grief that people go through:
- Denial, numbness, and shock: Numbness is a normal reaction to a
death or loss and should never be confused with "not caring." This stage of
grief helps protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss.
It can actually be useful when the grieving person has to take some action such
as planning a funeral, notifying relatives, or sorting out important paperwork.
As the individual moves through the experience and slowly acknowledges its
impact, the initial denial and disbelief will diminish.
- Bargaining: This stage of grief may be marked by persistent thoughts
about what "could have been done" to prevent the death or loss. Some people
become obsessed with thinking about specific ways things could have been done
differently to save the person's life or prevent the loss. If this stage of
grief is not dealt with and resolved, the individual may live with intense
feelings of guilt or anger that can interfere with the healing process.
- Depression: In this stage of grief, people begin to realise and feel
the true extent of the death or loss. Common signs of depression in this stage
include difficulty sleeping, poor appetite, fatigue, lack of energy, and crying
spells. The individual may also experience self-pity and feel lonely, isolated,
empty, lost, and anxious.
- Anger: This stage of grief is common. It usually occurs when an
individual feels helpless and powerless. Anger can stem from a feeling of
abandonment because of a death or loss. Sometimes the individual is angry at
those in authority, at the doctors who cared for the loved one, or towards life
- Acceptance: In time, an individual can move into this stage of grief
and come to terms with all the emotions and feelings that were experienced when
the death or loss occurred. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated
into the individual's set of life experiences.
Throughout a person's lifetime, he or she may return to some of the earlier
stages of grief, such as depression or anger. Because there are no rules or
time limit to the grieving process, each individual's healing process will be