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Loss, Grief and Depression

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Yesterday a 17-year-old boy was killed in an auto accident.  He was a well liked, active member of the local high school and a very loved son and brother of a local family.  Today the community who knew him is full of grief.  

Grief is a necessary aspect of life.  Whether it is mourning the loss of a person after a lengthy terminal illness or grieving the sudden loss of a child, there is no timeline for grief.   And there is no one way to grieve. Culture and circumstances contribute to how that grief is expressed and how the survivors cope.  

But how, then, do you tell when too much grieving is opening the door to depression?  How do you know when the magic line is crossed?  With so many variables – the personality of each individual, the circumstances, the strength of the relationship with the deceased, the opportunity or lack of to say goodbye and tie loose ends – it can be difficult to draw the line between grieving and depression.  

A principal factor that can send up red flags is if the outpouring of support from family, friends, and community are turned down and the people grieving isolate themselves, feeling disconnected from others.  Turning down any offers of help can be a risk factor in bridging over into depression.  Also, if you or others grieving have struggled with depression in the past, one significant death can be the trigger to letting depression loose.  

Bereavement follows no form, no schedule.  It ebbs and flows, emerging at different times, triggered by a date or a smell or a random thought. If you are in the midst of grieving, there are some things to remember.  

First of all, expect to feel depressed.  Loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and sadness are all part of the normal grieving process.  Also, expect this to ebb and flow, feeling good one day and plunged into deep grief the next.   Most important, build and use a support network.  Let others take care of you from time to time, whether that is a lunch out or helping to clean the house or just sitting and talking. 

Most of all, remember that if you have thoughts of suicide or experience serious weight loss or are unable to perform daily functions such as getting out of bed or going to work,  consider getting additional professional help to make sure that you have not crossed into clinical depression.   We all need extra help at times and it is the wise person who seeks it when needed.  

Saying goodbye to a loved one no matter the part they played in our lives is difficult. Taking care of ourselves during the grieving process is an important step in the healing process.  

– Bernadette

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