Grief & Depression

Normal Grief Reactions

If you have experienced genuine loss from divorce, job loss, movement away from home, failing health or death of a loved one, you may need to embrace the mourning process with full awareness.  Grieving is a healthy and necessary reaction to loss.  If you fail to grieve you may develop symptoms of increased anger, fear and anxiety, or rigidity, and your family may also suffer.

Tips for Moving Through Grief

Chaos

When you feel that nothing will ever be the same again, remember that chaos gives birth to new ways of living.  To enter into the chaos fully seems the necessary first step on a path to transformation and wholeness.  Do not rush things "back to normal," but rather accept the journey that grief requires.

Weeping

Weeping is a universal human response to a great loss.  Allow yourself to cry, even when you are suddenly overwhelmed with grief.  Studies show that a certain amount of crying is good for you.

Denying and Searching

In early grief, it is natural for your mind to play tricks.  Perhaps you are momentarily convinced the crisis didn't happen or that your lost loved one has reappeared.  Do not fear those memory lapses but accept them as your mind's way of slowly accepting your loss.

Solitude

Although our extroverted society negatively views solitude, wanting time alone is a natural part of the grieving process.  Do not allow yourself to be pulled away from time needed for yourself.

Remembering

Actively call forth memories of your life before your greatest loss.  Allow yourself to feel the richness of past experiences.  You may decide to write your feelings in a journal, compose a letter to a deceased loved one or give note and order to your life by writing your biography.

These tasks help resolve conflicting feelings about loss.  Listing past losses and noting how they were handled by your family may help you understand your current grief reactions.  Finally, try to paint your feelings or play music to elicit deep emotion.  Our deepest experiences cannot be put into words.

Looking Inward

Whether you are religious or not, great loss brings deep philosophical questions that challenge your belief system.  An important task in mourning is to honor what is sacred and find new meaning in life after loss.  Through prayer and reflection you find what is most important to you.  Then adjust to your new life by making decisions based on your new values.

Moving Toward Others

After enduring great loss, you may develop greater compassion and connection with others.  Rather than bitterly asking "why me?" you can see yourself as part of a human family whose members are dependent upon one another.

Activity

Some grievers, especially men, have a need to engage in an activity or sport.  Do not feel guilty if you want to play golf!  Find what brings you joy and do it.

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Test for Depression

Here are some symptoms of situational/biological depression.  Ask yourself if you have these symptoms.  Try to remember how long you have felt them and at what period of your life they were most prominent.

  1. I am filled with negative thoughts about myself.  I blame myself when things go wrong.  My voice inside is always full of should, admonishing myself for not living up to expectations;
  2. I no longer find pleasure in things that I used to enjoy.  It is hard for me to think about anything that would bring me happiness;
  3. I become easily upset.  Perhaps I find myself "flying off the handle."  People often annoy me;
  4. I'd rather sleep than see my friends.  Even though I want to sleep, I wake up early in the morning;
  5. I have health problems: dry eyes, tiredness, loss or increase in appetite;
  6. I am unable to make decisions;
  7. I don't really care if I live or die.

Serious depression is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals responsible for our emotional state.  It is best treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy - not medication alone.  Proper medication lifts your depression and gives you more energy to solve problems.  Examining your current circumstances and psychological make-up, and enriching your spiritual life will increase self-awareness and help you become a whole person.

Tips for Living with Depression

  1. Set realistic goals.  Tackle only those tasks that are essential until your mood improves;
  2. Postpone major decisions until you feel better;
  3. Try to be with other people as much as possible;
  4. Find someone you trust to confide in;
  5. Do things you used to enjoy such as going to a movie;
  6. Get some exercise every day;
  7. Be patient.  You can't snap out of a real depression, and your medication may not give its full effect for 4-8 weeks.
  8. As your depression lifts, take the opportunity to grow both spiritually and psychologically.  Choose a psychotherapist who works toward wholeness, combining conscious and unconscious, psychological and spiritual.

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