Don't Let Grief Become Depression

Grief is a natural reaction to significant loss, but when grief becomes too much of a challenge, or when it lasts so long that it interferes with everyday activities and enjoyment, it can evolve into depression.

Here are some other tips to identify, avoid and overcome grief-related depression.

What is Depression?

Depression is a feeling of sadness, discouragement, pessimism, or despair that lasts for several weeks or months and interferes with the ability to manage day-to-day affairs. Grief makes it hard to concentrate or find the energy to solve problems. If the problems worsen, so does sadness, and depression can take over. Depression also can be caused by medications or chemical changes in the body. Something has to interrupt this pattern.

Look for:

  • Appetite changes
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep
  • Decreased energy level
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Lack of enjoyment in things that used to provide satisfaction, enjoyment and happiness

How to Prevent Depression

  • Maintain contact with people whose company you enjoy.
  • Remain as physically, mentally, and intellectually active as possible.
  • Openly discuss your feelings with a family member, friend, or a member of the VITAS team.
  • Tell others what you need and want; do not expect them to read your mind.
  • Set reasonable, attainable goals for yourself. It is better to set a low goal and reach it than to set a goal too high and fail.
  • Control repetitive, negative thoughts.

If you find your depression is spiraling out of control, talk to your doctor or seek the help of a mental health professional, either through counseling, medication or a combination of both.

Things to Consider

  • Your feelings are real.
  • Your problems are real and some degree of depression is normal.
  • It is normal for people who can’t understand what you feel to try and cheer you up. Accept their attempts to help, but if their approach upsets you, tell them their words or behavior disrespect your feelings.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion can contribute to feelings of depression.
  • Pain can increase depression and depression can increase pain.
  • Depressed patients may have selfish tendencies that may cause the family to become angry.
  • If you are a caregiver, remember that you are not responsible for a patient’s depression.

What to Do

Control negative thinking by:

  • Yelling “STOP” loudly when you find yourself thinking negatively.
  • Visualizing a big red stop sign.
  • Popping yourself on the hand.
  • Getting up and moving to another place.
  • Allowing yourself a brief time (15 minutes) and a place to think negative thoughts. This way you are in control of the thoughts.
  • Distracting yourself. Get your mind involved in something else that replaces the negative thinking.
  • Thinking about what changes you can make to gain control of the situation.
  • Thinking about what provided you with feelings of worth in the past and what can be done now as a substitute.
  • Taking risks in situations in which you can succeed.
  • Establishing a set of “little” hopes and events to look forward to.
  • Relaxing through guided imagery, visualization, art, music or other self-help activities.
  • Affirming and recognizing your self-worth. Affirmation-recognize your self-worth.
  • Participate in an art activity.
  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor for depression

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.

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