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Grieving vs Depression


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How do you know the difference??? I should probally go see my Dr. - but I can't right now. My family Dr. for the past 15 years was also my Dad's family Dr. I can not bring myself to walk into his office yet....spilling my guts to a brand new Dr. is out of the question.

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I agree with Sandra...make that appointment and grab the kleenex. The doctor wil understand. You should go to someone who knows you and knew your Dad and his battle. There will be lots of less explaining.

I was just going for my regular check up and burst into tears when my doc asked me how I was doing. It had been 6 months since my Mom's death. We discussed medications and he put me on lexapro which has been a huge help. Best of luck to you.


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Hi Dina.

I'm afraid that 'spilling your guts to a brand-new doctor' is just what you need, assuming it's the right kind of doctor. Think of it this way: if you broke your leg, you'd go to an orthopedist; if you had a detached retina, you'd go to an ophthalmologist. For depression, one should go to a psychiatrist -- it's in their domain of expertise. Plus, your depression is not just from some screwed-up neurotransmitters in your brain, which is what anti-depressants aim to correct; your depression is no doubt intimately related to your grief (as you recognize). The best thing would be to talk about those feelings with a professional. So, if I were you, I'd call the family doctor (or have someone else call him) and ask him to recommend a psychiatrist. (If you're in the Philadelphia area, I'd be happy to recommend mine! Feel free to PM me.)

Good luck.


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Well, I'm going to walk the line here. I agree with Ellen that you may benefit from talking to someone but don't think it needs to be a psychiatrist. A good psychologist, mental health counselor or social worker can also do the job--and the latter two are oftentimes more down to earth than professionals who more typically deal with more serious mental health problems.

Telling the difference to me is more about is there evidence in a person's life to explain prolonged saddness--yes in the case of the loss of a loved one. That is not to say that anyone grieving might not benefit from an antidepressant, but in my opinion that's more a personal choice than is the true chemically imbalanced depression. I did not do a great deal of grief counseling in my therapy practice but I felt it was most about the benefit of talk therapy with someone who can listen and assure the person what they are going thru is normal. People in your personal life tend to grieve differently and it's difficult to get the validation you need thus making the sadness more profound.

Main thing, find someone to talk to with whom you are comfortable.

Judy in Key West

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Ok I am gonna dive under the bus on this one I think. there is a line between the two bbut its a fine line specially during the holidays. Talking to someone is a good thing and My advice is seek out a Member of your clergy! Do you have a minister or someone in the clergy perhaps? It would be bettter than going to a stranger that you dont know. Someone who knows more about you!? Just my 2 cents is all and I hope YA feel better soon!

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Hi again Dina.

I just wanted to say that I agree with Judy 100% and apologize for making it look like I was advocating psychiatrists to the exclusion of other mental health care providers. It was a mistake owing to the fact that *my* mental health care provider is a psychiatrist but he's a very old-fashioned one (maybe because he's over 80 :wink: ) and is definitely into 'talk therapy', as it's now called. I would NOT recommend the kind of psychiatrist that just writes prescriptions and sends you for blood tests every 6 months to see if the drugs have damaged you yet. So I amend my former plea to 'find a good talk-therapy mental health care provider'. Good luck.


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I have been seeing a clinical social worker who specilizes in grief once a week since Alan passed away. Simply put she is SAVING MY LIFE!!!. Just having someone to talk to has been amazing. Her thought on grief vs depression is if you go 3 days without speaking to another human being then that is when the warning bells go off. You are allowed 2 days in bed with the covers pulled over your head, but by the third day you must have human contact even if it is a simple phone call to talk about the weather, or going to the store to buy a pack of gum. My take, is try talking to someone before taking anti depressants, you may not need them

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I think I made the mistake in my grieving of trying to differienciate depression from grief when there IS such a thing as situational depression.

While my life was technically really good and I was keeping up with responsibilities and "looking good" on the surface- I was depressed about the fact that my parents were dead and I didn't know how to live life without them! That was devestating and just really sad.

I could've won the lottery and crowned American Idol and that fact wasn't going to change...you can't mask it, you have to work it thru.

Talking to others who have been there and finally talking with a grief counsellor (psychotherapist) really helped. My medical dr. was quick to rx. meds and they didn't really help me. I found that was only a temporary chemically induced relief (or fog) for 4-6 hours at a time.

I needed to learn how to live this life without the ones I loved and had lost.

I needed to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't through with them yet when they were taken from me and I needed to learn new life coping skills.

I'm still learning!

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Recently, I have asked myself this question. Up to about a month ago I was focused on taking care of my mom's business; and that gave me an outlet not to focus on grieving or depression.

But I think that brought about my anger because I was thinking, "Ma, you should be here to enjoy the fruits of your labor."

I fought this disease with my mom while she battled the disease, but I grieved heavily during that time as well.

But I stopped analyzing what phase of grief I am in...I don't know or really care what stage I am in.

If I feel like crying I do, whether it is on the commuter train in front of people I don't know . If the tears come I let them fall. If something funny happens and I know my mom would have got a kick out of it sometimes I smile or laugh harder or I laugh and cry at the same time.

But I do believe grief will encompass a bit of depression. The question is ...when is the depression taking control?

I think that now that I have gone through my mom's first birthday without her and my first birthday without her (no card from her or phone call from her)and now the holidays are here, I think now I am starting to experience a renewed grief and possibily depression in some form.

I find that although I am not sobbing every minute of the day, I have some mood swings on occassion. I do find that I am irritated more than usual. (lack of patience and I am not one for patience anyway) I made myself a promise that if I did not see an improvement in my 'irritabilty' by a certain date, I would join a grief counselling group.

But I am lucky: my brother and grandmother and I have each other and we can talk about what we feel. and in that I have friends who can relate to what I am going through because unfortunately they have been down this road already; they have lost a parent.

One thing they all have told me which I try to hold to is - the "hole" never goes away, you will always miss your parent BUT life must go on. You will live a full life and learn to live with that hole in your heart." Or as my brother has told me, "We aren't the first and unfortunately, we won't be the last."

Of course something I know, everyone does NOT grieve the same way and one may not grieve the same for each passing they grieve for. Like I said , for me, the emotion that dominates at this point, may be anger/irritable. I am angry that my mom is gone...I am pissed that there isn't a cure for lung cancer, I am extremely heartbroken at seeing newly diagnosed patients, I rally in my heart for those that are still fighting, I am livid lung cancer funding is so low, I cry in understanding hat what others are feeling who have lost a love oned to this disease and I get anryr at why and what caused us to grieve . .. I can go on and on....but I have to find a way to deal with these feellings constuctively.

So in the spirit of healing...

I am creating a website in honor of my mom and I do find considerable comnfort in that.

And another way I can deal wth this constructivey is through advocacy for lung cancer awareness in some form. It would be a fitting legacy to my mom and hopefully to support those in the fight and to bring awareness to this disease.

Our parents birthed and /or nurtured us, they know us as well if not better than we know ourselves, ...I think if we spent our lives grieving or being in state or depression for them they would not like it (I believe that),.

I think if we uphold the best of them that is within us, they would be happy and proud of us to the extreme. I will miss my mom ALWAYS, just as I know each of us here will miss our loved one(s), but I will live a fulfilling life, a good life ( I'll try my best) and that will honor my mom. At least I will try.

Thanks for bring up this topic for discussion.



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Sounds like we'll all on pretty much the same page. The rule of thumb is, is it interfering with your life. If so, you may need to be jump started with medication. If not, you may still benefit from talk therapy--it doesn't even need to be a mental health professional. It can be a family member or friend who is good at listening and sharing, a clergy member, a grieving group or any manner of mh professional. Bottom line, do what you have to do to process the loss of a loved one and go on living. They would want you to.

Judy in KeyWest

P.S. Ellen no offense taken. I just like to take whatever opportunities I'm offered to let people know there are several types of mhps and you just keep trying until you find the right one for you.

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Thank you all for sharing your stories and the advice. I am going to try to get through my first Holidays without my Dad and get through January. My Mom has been hospitalized 3 times since Dad has been gone and she is having major surgery on Jan. 5th. She will be moving in with us after her surgery. Being an only child - my every minute has been consumed with my parents. I think once these things are behind me - I will be able to take some "me" time and see how I am doing then.

Happy Holidays!!!!!!

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