Experiencing a major loss, be it of a loved one, losses from a natural disaster, a disability, a serious medical illness, or financial ruin, may lead to feelings of immense sadness, insomnia, constant thoughts about the loss, changes in appetite, and other symptoms that may resemble depression. These reactions are normal, and it may take time before you feel like yourself again.
No one can tell you the length of time it is “normal” to grieve, as everyone copes with losses in their own way. Some say that one never really stops grieving after a major loss, and instead, eventually learns to cope with the loss. However, if it feels like some time has passed and your grief has continued to make it difficult for you to function in your everyday life, it is worth considering whether you may be experiencing depression over and above experiencing sadness associated with your loss.
Here are some signs that you may be experiencing depression:
- In addition to feelings of emptiness and/or loss, you experience a persistent depressed mood and/or the inability to anticipate happiness or pleasure.
- Your depressed mood is persistent and not tied to specific thoughts or preoccupations about the loss. Grief alone is likely to decrease in intensity over days to weeks and is often associated with waves of sadness, or “pangs” of grief, tied to thoughts or reminders of the loss. Depression, on the other hand, is more persistent, and feelings of sadness are more generalized.
- You rarely experience positive emotions or humor. While grieving, it is natural to preserve feelings of joy even in the wake of sadness. In contrast, depression is characterized by persistent unhappiness or misery.
- You experience self-critical or pessimistic thoughts that go beyond regrets specific to the loss. In grief, self-esteem is usually preserved. If you have feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing, this may be a sign of depression.
- You think about death and dying, and these thoughts are not solely focused on the deceased or “joining” the deceased. That is, you think about ending your own life because you feel undeserving of life or worthless, or you feel unable to cope with the pain of depression.
Losing someone or something that was very important to you is tremendously difficult. If you find that you are struggling to cope, therapists at Great Lakes Psychology Group can help. Make an appointment today at one of our convenient locations in the Metro Detroit area and continue your journey of healing with the guidance of a skilled therapist.