Signs of Depression after the Loss of a Parent

image-12Loss. There’s nothing in this world like it; it’s difficult, it’s suffocating, it’s so unapologetically overwhelming that it may crush you to a point you can’t breathe. The good news is – it goes away. Not straight away, and not easily – but it gradually dissolves and turns into a memory of a person or thing you loved deeply.

Losing a parent is like having one of your extremities ripped off, especially if you were close to the parent who died. And when you’re faced with such tremendous loss it’s essential you let yourself grieve; otherwise, you are suppressing genuine, intense feelings of hurt which, when neglected, can only result in eventual outbursts of anger, sadness and – ultimately – end in depression.

What is depression?

Unlike “normal” (i.e. expected) feelings of sadness that go away after a period of time, depression causes prolonged feelings of melancholy that actively impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities.

Signs and signals of depression aren’t the same in everyone, but some of the key aspects include fatigue, losing interest in things that once made you happy, showing strange social behavior (unlikely of your regular interactive patterns), feelings of pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness, irritability, insomnia or excessive sleeping, overeating or appetite loss, persistent aches or cramps, pains, headaches, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment, thoughts of suicide…

Whether you experience grief or depression, there are many approaches that can help you heal with time.

Differences between grief and depression

Grief, just like happiness, is an individual thing; everyone grieves differently and some symptoms of grief show very similar to signs of depression. However, there are very important differences between grief and depression:

Self-esteem – Lack of self-esteem is symptomatic in people who experience major depression. They often say they hate themselves and feel worthless. Those with grief don’t typically have these feelings.

Symptom duration –  People with depression often have long-lasting negative feelings that are overpowering and constant. Grieving people experience symptoms that fluctuate, coming and going in waves.

Hallucinations/delusions –  A person experiencing depression may have delusions or hallucinations on almost daily basis. This involves seeing things that aren’t there, hearing voices or believing things that aren’t true. People who are grieving usually don’t experience these symptoms.

Acceptance of support –  Unlike people with depression who tend to isolate themselves and potentially shun others, those who are grieving often avoid vibrant social settings, but they do accept some support from loved ones.

Grief can be a trigger for major depressive disorders; however, not everyone who is grieving will experience severe depression.

Some ways to care for yourself include:

Exercising regularly; signing up for fitness classes, going for a walk, riding a bike, using an elliptical machine, doing yoga, etc – anything that will help relieve stress.

Spending time with the loved ones; socializing with people who love you (even if it’s just to read a will made at Familywills) will help you feel safe and protected, gradually helping you overcome the feeling of sadness.

Exploring a new skill; taking a cooking class, joining pottery sessions, participating in teaching seminars…

When to seek help:

The loss of a loved one can leave a profound hole in your life; if this life-changing situation causes you to experience the following symptoms, make sure you call your doctor:

Performing everyday activities with difficulty;

Blaming yourself for your loved one’s death;

Feeling as if you have no purpose in life;

Losing desire to participate in social activities;

Feeling as if your life isn’t worth living if your loved one isn’t with you any longer;

Wishing you had died as well;

After you lose your loved one, take as much time as you need to grieve; however – if it happens you’ve got any of the feelings listed above become a dominant pattern of behavior, consult with an expert on ways to prevent these negative feelings grow.

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