It’s Not Depression–It’s Grief

Since the beginning of sheltering in place, I have been focused on how to stay connected, remain optimistic, and support vitality. Along those lines, I have been grateful to continue my work as a psychotherapist. I also wanted to contribute something more to be of service. To that end, I resumed writing blog posts and began a group for folks to talk about their experience during this pandemic. Last weekend a storm cloud blew in.

I woke up on Monday morning sad, sad, sad. The bottom had fallen out and it felt like I had tumbled into a dark abyss–one that felt so deep I feared I might never be able to claw my way out. The onset was so sudden, and there was no obvious triggering event; it was more like an unexpected squall that hit me out of the blue.

My energy was gone. Barely able to drag myself to the computer to set up for my meditation group that was meeting via zoom rather than in person since sheltering in place, bathrobe-clad, hair uncombed, I sat myself in front of the computer. When it came time to check in, I could hardly speak for the cry that flooded. How was I doing? Terrible. Sad.

My trusted meditation group members listened to me, shared their feelings. One thanked me for having being brave enough to be honest about how I was truly feeling. She said it was hard when people said they were fine when they weren’t. Some of the others shared that they too were feeling down. After the meeting, since I didn’t have to work until much later in the day, I soaked in a hot tub and reflected on my state. Gradually with the combination of having shared my experience, the acceptance of others, the comfort of water, and quiet reflection, my energy began to revive.

What I realized was that I wasn’t slipping into a depression, I was overcome with grief. So much has been lost:

  • Social contact with loved ones and friends
  • Freedom to move around my world
  • The ability to plan
  • My familiar sense of self as a risk-taking, intrepid person
  • Control over my future
  • Choice

And there are others have lost much more:

  • The lives of loved ones
  • Health and well being
  • Financial security
  • Jobs

Whether you’ve lost a lot or a little, loss is loss. It doesn’t help to rationalize that your loss isn’t as great as someone else’s.

Some of the symptoms of grief and depression overlap: loss of/ or excessive appetite, sleep disturbance, feelings of sadness, inability to focus, anxiety, and loss of pleasure in normal activities,

When a person suffers from depression, there can be in addition to the grief symptoms, excessive feelings of guilt, worthlessness, numbness, feelings of emptiness, rumination, fatigue, lethargy, and thoughts of suicide.

We are all grieving.

If you are suddenly feeling sad, I hope you can distinguish your grief from depression, and that you can find the kind of comfort that restored me. If you want to take a deeper dive into understanding our current state of grief, Brené Brown talks to David Kessler, a grief specialist who worked with Elizabeth Kubler Ross, and who wrote about the 6th stage of grief–meaning. Here’s the link:

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