Dealing with Depression After the Loss of a Loved One


Depression vs. Grief

Robert Allison, MA, LPC used to say, “Depression is more than an emotion or a state of mind, it is really a process. It is a combination of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.” Of all the painful experiences that we go through in life, one of the most devastating is the death of a loved one. We may deal with the loss in different ways, but the emotions are the same – sadness, anger, anxiety, hopelessness. It is just too heartbreaking. Sometimes, though, the grieving process lengthens and becomes long term, and the individual suffers complicated grief. When this grief is so intense that it affects his day-to-day activities, he has possibly gone into a depressive state, which causes more negative emotions.

Major depression after grief evokes a feeling of worthlessness and incompetence. Individuals who are in a depressive state are constantly stressed and sad, unlike those who are only grieving where their negative feelings fluctuate. They have more difficulty getting over the loss of their loved one and they will even begin to hate themselves. Additionally, grieving people may not like to socialize very much in the process but they do acknowledge and welcome support. That is what you do not see with those who are depressed, as they try to avoid any attention given to them from their friends and their community.

Help in Dealing with Depression

According to Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC “The choice of which treatment for depression to choose should be a collaborative decision between you and your therapist, and depends on your personality, your preferences, and the type of depression you have.” Yes, the loss of a loved one can be traumatic and if you feel that you can no longer deal with it on our own, you must seek help from a mental health therapist or a psychologist. You’ll need to find one when:

·      You can no longer feel like doing anything when you wake up

·      You are constantly blaming yourself for your loved one’s demise

·      You want to end your life

·      You are no longer interested to see or talk to anyone

·      You don’t pay attention to the rest of your family and think that nothing is worth living

These signs are risky and if you feel that you have most, if not all of them, it would do you well to ask for help immediately.

However, if you think there is hope for recovery and you are willing to help yourself, try some of these measures in dealing with your depression.

Take time to cry and talk about the pain. Many people, especially men, have ingrained in their minds that crying makes them look weak. They believe that they are not entitled to vent it out through their tears because it would make them more vulnerable. Wrong. Crying releases the sadness and the heaviness of the heart. It actually makes it easier to breathe a few minutes after crying. It relaxes the body and the mind, just as talking to someone does. When you feel like you want to be alone but your anguish is intense, try to talk it out with a friend or family member. Problems actually become easier to bear when they are shared. “Part of the human experience is to engage in cycles and varying emotional intensity. The next time you feel the urge to engage in a good cry, try to let go and consider how it could benefit and help you.” A reminder from Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P.

Learn a new skill or polish an old one.  Learning something interesting encourages you to focus on things other than your loss. Enroll in cooking or baking classes. Make a garden in your home. Join a club that involves interacting with different kinds of people. If you’ve been physically active, try to continue your previous routines, the ones that inspired you to look good and feel good. Depression is something that is not very easy to deal with and doing something constructive will definitely alleviate some of it.


Sufficient sleep is crucial to the life of a depressed individual. Getting six to eight hours of sleep at night is a general recommendation for everyone. There have been studies suggesting that short-term sleep deprivation may actually help reduce symptoms of depression. Depressed individuals were advised not to sleep in the middle of the day so that they were able to sleep early at night, and this method has produced some successful outcomes, enabling individuals to sleep well through the night, as daytime ‘power naps’ make it difficult for most individuals to sleep smoothly during the evening. Sleep aids would also help but not always encouraged for everyone.

Do not depend on alcohol, drugs or nicotine. Constant sadness sometimes leads you to drink too much to make the burden easier to forget, but alcohol abuse has destructive long-term effects that only aggravate the depressive symptoms. You think it can help because it dampens the emotions but we know too well that it does more harm than good. Too much drinking and smoking will definitely cause new problems to tackle in the future.

Bereavement groups are a great option to find healing. When you realize that there are other people who are suffering like you do and are sharing their pains and loneliness with you, you learn to share yourself with them and in the process you are easing your own pain and suffering. Together, you will find ways to alleviate the negative emotions, help each other go through the process of grief, and ultimately walk away from the darkness that is called depression.


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