How to Navigate the Signs Between Grief and Depression

Death is an inescapable fact of life, which means that, unfortunately, so is bereavement. Nothing affects your emotional wellness quite like losing someone you love, but where do you draw the line between emotional wellness and mental health? Or, in other words, when does grief turn into a major depressive disorder?


Obviously, grief is different for everyone, and is different to normal sadness. When sadness affects your wellbeing, you can still describe why you are sad, function normally in the world and overcome the sadness within a relatively short period of time. However, when you’re mourning the loss of a parent, spouse, sibling, friend or even a pet, you can have intense experiences for days, weeks or even months. These include:


  • Feeling guilt over the things you did or did not do before your loved one died
  • Wishing it had been you instead
  • Imagining you’ve seen or heard the dead person
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Changes in the way you eat and exercise
  • Isolating yourself from others


So that’s grief, but when does it become cause for concern? When does grief turn into depression? If you are concerned this may apply to you or someone you love who is following a bereavement, ask yourself the following questions:


  1. Are you unable to focus or concentrate?
  2. Do you have extreme feelings of worthlessness or guilt?
  3. Are your feelings of depression and anxiety getting worse over time, rather than better?
  4. Have you had trouble sleeping for more than six weeks?
  5. Have you gained or lost an extreme amount of weight?
  6. Do you have inexplicable physical symptoms?
  7. Have you had suicidal thoughts?


If you’ve answered yes to these questions, you should seek treatment. This comes in many forms, including medications such as antidepressants and therapies such as interpersonal therapy and/or cognitive behavioural therapy. You can also stave off depression by getting some form of exercise for 30 minutes every other day, as this will increase the mood-boosting hormones in your brain. Plus, you can find relief by eating a healthy diet, doing the things you love to do, and connecting with your friends and family.

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