It's morning. The kids are awake. The house is alive again, but you are not. You didn't sleep. Your body aches. Your head hurts. Your mind races. Just another day.The children filter in and out of the room, chattering and clamoring for their school supplies. "What's for breakfast?" "Have you seen my shoes?" "Are you coming to my game?" You shut the door.
One day, the world looked different. The person you love is no longer here. What are you supposed to do now?
Everything around you keeps going. Everyone in your surroundings is moving forward. But you yourself don't want to even move. The bed feels warm. The lights are all off. The outside noise is muffled. This is where it's safe--inside your own thoughts and feelings, and no one to tell you otherwise.
Everything around you keeps going. Everyone in your surroundings is moving forward. But you yourself don't want to even move.
Losing someone you love isn't easy. It will also make a person feel depressed with immense pain. When someone you love dies, you grieve. Grieving is hard; you don’t have to like it. You may get upset with yourself because of the grief. You may wish you could just rise above it. You might think you should get over it quickly. You may also find grieving inconvenient, disruptive, painful or annoying. Grieving is all that and more. But it is also the natural reaction to significant loss.
If you can keep the attention on the real problem—my loved one died—you can help yourself avoid a deep depression. Your feelings are valid. Your problems are real, and some degree of depression is normal.
Symptoms of grief, depression and trauma can resemble one another. In order to respond to these symptoms appropriately and move forward with life, it is crucial to understand the differences. Trauma symptoms include (1):
- Re-experiencing Symptoms: You replay the trauma in your mind, whether awake or asleep.
- Avoidance Symptoms: You avoid any thoughts, emotions, activities or places related to the trauma.
- Numbing Symptoms: You feel fewer emotions, especially positive ones.
- Arousal Symptoms: You find it difficult to sleep and to concentrate, and you constantly feel on guard.
It’s not unusual for those who grieve to feel disconnected, empty and anxious. Grief encompasses different emotions for different people, and it takes time to adjust to the loss and any accompanying changes. Sometimes, though, the depressive state doesn't go away over time and continues to disrupt everyday life. This may be an indicator of a depressive disorder (2).
- You feel intense sorrow and pain and continue to ruminate over the loss.
- You can focus on little else but your loss.
- You focus extremely on reminders of your loved one, or you may avoid any reminders.
- You feel intense and persistent longing for your deceased loved one.
- You have problems accepting the death of your loved one.
- You feel numb and/or detached.
- You feel bitter about your loss.
- You feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose.
- You feel that you cannot place any trust in others.
- You cannot enjoy life. Thinking back to positive experiences with your loved one seems impossible.
It is possible to grieve without being depressed. That said, there is a difference between the sadness of grief and the unrelenting numbness of depression. Sadness can be a symptom of depression, but clinical depression is more than sadness. If you experience four months of symptoms without any improvement, then it is more likely that you are clinically depressed rather than dealing with a period of grief. Symptoms and behaviors indicating clinical depression include the following:
- Prolonged or severe inability to function at home, work and/or school
- Stays in bed all day, doing nothing
- Thinking of suicide and/or being preoccupied with death
- Speaking and moving slowly
- Experiencing hallucinations that may or may not relate to the deceased
- Feeling worthless
Symptoms of grief, depression and trauma can resemble one another.
Grieving the loss may be painful, but it is necessary to allow healing to occur. Life isn’t always going to be on a downward spiral. When it is, you can find ways to focus on the positive instead of the negative. The following affirmations can help with finding positive focus:
- I am finding strength in myself as I grieve.
- I extinguish the belief that I will never recover from this loneliness.
- I absolve myself from all guilt, except for downing a pint of chocolate ice cream.
- I allow myself to feel this fully, to be here.
- I let go of my resistance to this situation.
- I’ll never be the same person again, but that is okay.
- I’m surrounded by support, seen and unseen.
- I choose to heal my hurt spirit.
- I’m not going to hold back.
- I can still see the love in the world.
- I’m moving through grief, and on to other emotions.
- I can hold onto the love and let go of the grief.
- The universe lifts me, supports me, and guides me.
- I can accept help when it’s offered.
- Today, I choose to heal.
- I can pay tribute by living my own life in a beautiful way.
- I am gentle with myself as I heal.
- I focus on my blessings, goals and memories.
- I know that it is great to see an end to my journey of grief; but in the end, it is the journey that matters.
Start by recognizing your grief. Then take necessary steps to work through the pain. It will not be easy, but you are worth the effort.
Not everyone is excited for this time of year. For many people, it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety.