Differences between Grief and Depression
When you have a loss, you grieve. Grief is different for everyone and there is no right way to grieve and no appropriate time frame. Grief is often associated with loss of an important person in your life but you can also grieve for anyone with whom you have had a connection – a friend, a pet, a famous person you never met, a neighbor or maybe someone you hated. Anyone you have had a connection with who goes away or dies, creates the possibility of grief. Other losses can also evoke grief: diminished physical functioning, job loss, loss of your home in a move or foreclosure.
Although grief is a terrible feeling, it is different from depression. When people are very depressed, they can’t grieve. All they experience is the deadening feelings of depression and often emptiness. One difference between grief and depression is that self esteem is not adversely affected with grief. People may experience unreasonable guilt which can be worked with but the basic self esteem is stable in grief.
Grief also seems to come in waves. Grief is very painful, as painful or more so than depression depending on the importance of the loss. People can feel as if their heart has been ripped out and they will never be OK again. However, when they remember or tell stories about the beloved, they can laugh, remember and reexperience the feelings of fun and happiness. Then the waves of loss return. It is like the clouds part for a brief few moments and they feel some good feelings. In depression, the clouds are always there.
Therapy can help with both depression and grief. It creates a space for people to tell their story to someone who is not in their life. There is a kind of freedom in this as they don’t have to worry about the therapist. They can say things that they may be embarrassed or too guilty to say to a friend or family member. There is a natural healing force that moves when your tell your story and you are received. The unconscious body mind is very wise. It knows the way out of grief. Having someone witness your story can facilitate your coming to terms with your loss.
The way people heal with both grief and depression is to feel the feelings. It can be hard to stay with the feelings and that is where the therapist can be useful. Many people resist feelings which just entrenches the feelings. What is resisted, continues. The path to healing feelings is feeling them. Feelings pass when they are experienced. Many people can face the depth of their feelings in therapy because they are supported and not alone. The therapist can serve as a beacon of hope. “I have seen this before – you are going to find your way back. Go easy on yourself. Don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. It is OK to tell yourself the truth about your experience. It will not destroy you. I am here.”
In depression all of the above is true but we also work on the negative self talk. There are thinking errors that depressed people make such as, guilt, personalizing, self blame, all or nothing thinking, predicting the future and reading other people’s minds. This is where Cognitive Behavior Therapy is helpful. Change thinking and the feelings shift. Our experience is created by how we name it. When we are judgemental and hopeless and self loathing, depression grows more powerful. As people give up the negative self talk and are no longer brutal to themselves, they can begin to have some self compassion which is often patterned after the therapist’s acceptance and compassion for them. Then new possibilities emerge.
If you are experiencing grief or depression, do consider giving yourself the gift of therapy. You don’t have to do this alone. It doesn’t have to be so hard. Call me for a phone consultation and let’s talk about what might be possible for you.