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Grief and Depression

When Sadness Overwhelms

Grieving is a natural and important process that helps us avoid depression and psychological problems later in life. Just as no two people are alike, the stages of grief are different for all of us and the time it takes to pass through them varies. In general, we must experience at least one set of seasons and holidays without a loved one, but often the grieving process takes much longer. Remember the grieving process is natural and ultimately will restore balance to your life.

The grieving process in an unexpected death usually takes much longer to work through than the death following a long illness because caregivers and the family is unprepared for the death. Caregivers may wish they had said or done something before the death or feel like they have “unfinished business.” Sometimes caregivers feel guilt and blame themselves for the death.

Stages of Grief

Each person experiences loss in a personal way. However, the following are common

stages in the grieving process:

  • Shock and numbness—usually the first stage, which can last from a few days to several months

  • Denial—a refusal to accept the loss

  • Realization and emotional release—feelings of overwhelming sadness and bouts of crying, often at unexpected times

  • Guilt—feelings that more could have been done

  • Disorganization and anxiety—confusion and an inability to concentrate, causing feelings of panic

  • Memory flashbacks—sudden flashbacks of both good and bad memories are normal but can be frightening

  • Loneliness and depression—a long period of overwhelming sadness and loss of interest in things that once gave pleasure

  • Anger and resentment—at the doctors, the family, friends, God and even at the person who died

  • Recovery—a return to a more normal life

The Tasks of Mourning

Time alone does not heal. The work of grief is a long-term process and we need friend's acknowledgement of our grief.

  • Accept the Loss—It is normal to repeatedly tell the story to others and be preoccupied with thoughts of the deceased.

  • Acknowledge the Pain—Avoiding the emotional pain can prolong the grief.

  • Adjust to the New Life—Identify your needs and find ways to meet them.

  • Reinvest in Life—Realize you can love life again and that this does not diminish the love you had for your loved one

Tip It is helpful to deal with grief by being around people who have gone through the same experience. Most communities have grief support groups through churches, synagogues and other nonprofit organizations.


Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.


We do not feel grief only when someone we love dies. Grief can be felt by the person in our care and the caregiver, even when we first hear the diagnosis of a life threatening illness. During the course of the illness the caregiver often feels sadness, anger depression and abandonment by family and friends.

Serious Warning Signs

Seek professional counseling if you or a family member develops a medical condition in reaction to profound feelings of loss or:

  • Feels furious hostility

  • Loses all emotional feeling

  • Begins using alcohol or drugs

  • Feels happiness instead of a sense of loss

  • Withdraws from all friendships

  • Is profoundly depressed

Correct Diagnosis

Depression is often misdiagnosed as dementia or Alzheimer’s, but there are differences. It is important to get a correct diagnosis for anyone suspected of having depression, Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Taking Care of Yourself

Spotting Life's Upsets

In every job, relationship, or life situation there is inevitably some turbulence.

Learn to laugh at it. It is part of what you do and who you are.

If you are a baker chances are you will burn a few cakes every now and then. If you are a homemaker, you will break a few dishes. If you are a clerk at a supermarket, there is a great possibility that one day one of the grocery bags will burst as you finish filling it. You can be prepared, as one clerk was, with, "They just don't make these bags like they used to; this was supposed to happen in your driveway!"

You cannot expect things to run smoothly twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, for your entire life. Why not prepare for those rough spots before they occur and be ready with some way to lighten them up?

Some days are better (or worse) than others. Like the Boy Scouts, be prepared!

Source: Make Someone Else Happy by Allen Klein. Allen Klein is an award-winning professional speaker and best-selling author. Klein's books include The Healing Power of Humor, The Courage to Laugh, and Quotations to Cheer You Up. For more information about his programs, he can be reached at

Humor Helps

People often feel guilty about having fun or even smiling after experiencing a loss. Humor is therapeutic and can be a tremendous help as families navigate their grief journey.

Source: Stepping Stones of Hope; a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization that provides support programs such as Camp Paz, a day camp and weekend retreat for bereaved families.


“It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”

~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Live Life Laughing!

Two women were attending a funeral the first woman says, “I don't understand it. Didn't he follow the doctor's instructions on the pills?”

The other woman answered, “He sure did. It said, "keep this bottle tightly closed.”

Stepping Out of Pain Into Forgiveness

If the person who did you wrong is gone, how do we overcome the pain and sorrow into the peace of forgiveness? There are some steps you can take to help you overcome pain.

  1. Name the Injury—Exactly what did the person do that hurt you?

  2. Claim the Injury—Recognize how it affects you even today.

  3. Name the Person Who Caused the Injury—Clearly identify who it was that caused you pain.

  4. Choose to Forgive—Write out a list of every injury the person made against you. Can it be undone or repaid? No? Then shred the list.

  5. Recognize How the Injury has Changed You—You are now a person who clearly understands the injury done to her and no longer thinks of herself as injured.

Source: Forgiving the Unforgivable: Overcoming the Bitter Legacy of Intimate Wounds, Beverly Flanigan, 1992 Wiley Publishing

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