Losing a loved one is a jarring, tragic experience. It brings on a period of grief that can be filled with sadness, anger, and anxiety. It can make you uncertain if the sadness will ever go away. Although grief and depression share many similar symptoms, they are unique and distinct states. Being able to recognize these distinctions is important, yet it can be difficult to understand if you are just grieving or if it could be something more.
What is Grief?
Grief is a normal and natural response after you have experienced loss. Although you may associate grief with losing a loved one, many significant losses can trigger grief. These can include:
- The end of a relationship
- Moving to a new location or job
- A much-anticipated opportunity, or life goal that abruptly didn’t work out as expected
- The loss of a pet
Allowing yourself to grieve is important, as it frees up energy that connects us to the lost person, event, or experience. Grieving does not make you weak, nor should it have any negative connotations. Healthy grieving allows us to remember the person or experience and achieve a sense of peace.
During a period of grief, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite, which can result in significant weight loss
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness, despair, and mourning
- Anger at the person, God, those responsible, themselves, or others
- Uncontrollable crying
- Poor concentration
- Mood swings
- Feelings of guilt (“if only I had…”)
- Social withdrawal
- Feeling of numbness
- Loss of the meaning of life
The Emotional Ups and Downs of Grief
Some describe the experience of grief as an emotional rollercoaster. Grief sweeps over them, then seems to subside, only to come back again. Grieving the loss of a loved one can come with many different emotions. One minute you may be filled with sadness as you think about how they are gone forever, while the next you’re filled with laughter as you remember moments you shared.
All of this is normal. It is common to start feeling better in certain situations, such as when you are enjoying time spent with family or friends. Then a triggering event occurs, such as the deceased person’s birthday or another instance when feelings of sadness resurface. Again, this is normal.
Your reactions may be so intense or irrational that you feel as though they are going crazy or will never get over the loss. In other cases, you may be afraid to allow yourself to grieve in fear of being consumed by negative emotions. No matter what, these feelings eventually start to decrease in intensity, allowing you to regain your composure and get back to living your life. The length of time for grief varies greatly. Everyone grieves differently, and that’s okay.
Grief can develop into complicated grief, which does not dissipate with time and can resemble depression. In extreme cases, a person with complicated grief may engage in self-harm behaviors or even think about or attempt suicide. Other symptoms associated with complicated grief include:
- Intense sadness and/or anger
- Consistent irritability
- Difficulty accepting that your loved one has passed
- Excessive focus on what has happened
- Thoughts of “joining” or being “reunited” with the deceased
- Sensations of seeing or hearing things that are not present
If you or someone you love may be struggling with complicated grief, reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can provide you with professional help. You can also reach out to your healthcare provider. Complicated grief is a volatile condition, and it’s important to reach out as soon as possible to get the help you need right away.
Getting Through It
While grief might carry generalized symptoms, your personal emotional experience is unique to you. Finding healthy ways to cope and balance yourself through trying times is vital for your mental health. Here are some ways to cope with this difficult experience:
- Reach out to loved ones
- Express your feelings
- Take care of your mental and physical well being
- Enjoy life however you can
- Be patient with yourself
- Seek assistance from a mental health provider
Be gentle with yourself. This is a hard time for anyone, and if this is the first death you have experienced, you’re trying to navigate uncharted emotional waters. The main difference between grief and depression is that grief tends to decrease over time, whereas depression tends to be more persistent and pervasive. Either way, if you or a loved one are experiencing overwhelming feelings of grief, depression, or unidentified sadness, reach out for professional help right away.
Losing someone or something that we care about can be an indescribably difficult experience. The intensity of grief can wax and wane over time, leaving you emotionally fraught and impairing your ability to function. The symptoms of grief can overlap with signs of depression, leaving you feeling uncertain whether your heavy feelings will ever pass. While grieving any loss is a healthy and important part of your relationship with the world, depression can snowball into a dangerous burden that saps your enthusiasm for the good parts of life. If negative feelings are interfering with your ability to live, don’t let them accumulate in silence. Seeking professional help can get you back on track to emotional well-being. It can be difficult to get help during a difficult time, but it’s important to invest in yourself so that you can go on to experience life’s highs and lows to your fullest capacity. Reach out to Achieve Concierge at (619) 393-5871 to get help today.