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Is it Grief or Depression?

By: Morgan White, AMFT

Grief vs. Depression

Grief and depression share overlapping symptoms, so knowing the difference between the two is important, and may even be lifesaving.

With both grief and depression, intense sadness and disruptions to sleep/appetite are common.

Grief is a reaction to LOSS

Grief is commonly understood as a reaction to the loss of a loved one due to death, but grief reactions present in other types of losses and transitions, such as divorce, moving, when one experiences an injury or illness, and much more. Grief has arisen for many people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many experienced a loss of safety, community, and sense of some control over their lives.

In addition to the symptoms above, those grieving commonly experience irritability, anger, guilt associated with the loss, and difficulty accepting the loss. Grief tends to decrease over time, but often reemerges when reminded of the loss, an example being a deceased loved one’s birthday. People cope with grief in many different ways. The following are a few common ways that help people cope: therapy, support groups, spiritual/faith-based support, and family and/or friends.

The symptoms associated with clinical depression are persistent and may be deadly if not treated.

In addition to feelings of sadness and changes in appetite/sleep, depression is commonly accompanied by feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, apathy, guilt not related to grief, and suicidal ideation. People also commonly lose interest in things they previously cared for, and/or find little to no pleasure or joy in life. While some people may experience some of the above symptoms on a temporary basis when grieving, with depression the feelings are ongoing.

Unresolved grief may contribute to the development of depression, but more commonly does not. Depression is treatable, often with ongoing therapy and sometimes with medication. It is very important to reach out to a mental health professional or your family doctor if you are experiencing depression.

Additional Resources:

Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief:

Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity. Dr. Joanne Cacciatore—bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field—accompanies us along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities—as well as her own experience with loss—Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief.

Not just for the bereaved, Bearing the Unbearable will be required reading for grief counselors, therapists and social workers, clergy of all varieties, educators, academics, and medical professionals. Organized into fifty-two accessible and stand-alone chapters, this book is also perfect for being read aloud in support groups

The Beauty of What Remains

This inspiring and comforting book takes us on a journey through the experience of loss that is fundamental to everyone. Yet even after having sat beside thousands of deathbeds, Steve Leder the rabbi was not fully prepared for the loss of his own father. It was only then that Steve Leder the son truly learned how loss makes life beautiful by giving it meaning and touching us with love that we had not felt before.

Enriched by Rabbi Leder's irreverence, vulnerability, and wicked sense of humor, this heartfelt narrative is filled with laughter and tears, the wisdom of millennia and modernity, and, most of all, an unfolding of the profound and simple truth that in loss we gain more than we ever imagined.

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