Understanding Depression and Grief

Document created by kbass on Dec 27, 2016Last modified by mcunningham on Mar 22, 2017
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What is depression and what are the symptoms?

  • Most people do not suffer from depression. However, almost everyone has experienced feeling sad, discouraged or hopeless at some time. 
  • In those suffering from depression, feelings of sadness or hopelessness are usually strong and last a long time. Additional symptoms of depression can include:
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • The inability to feel pleasure
    • Withdrawing from others
    • Having ongoing thoughts about death or suicide. 

Depression can make it very difficult to enjoy everyday life.


  • There are also a number of physical symptoms that can be related to depression, such as:
    • Sleep problems
    • Low energy
    • Weight loss
    • Restlessness
    • Difficulty in thinking clearly

Physical problems, like these mentioned above, can be caused from disease rather than signs of depression. It's always a good idea to discuss your symptoms with a member of your health care team.


How can depression be treated?

  • Discuss your fears. Learn about the disease process. Involve family members.
  • Medicines and/or counseling may be helpful.
  • Health care providers can help you learn how to cope with feelings of depression.
  • Other treatments include relaxation exercises, massage, healing touch and guided imagery.


What is grief? How is grief different from depression?

  • Grief is a normal response to loss. Both patients and caregivers experience many losses. The patient may have to rely on others for care, need help to get out of bed, not be able to enjoy simple pleasures such as a meal or a walk, or not be able to sleep through the night. Patients and caregivers may also be thinking about the things they will miss in the future, such as sharing important events with loved ones.
  • Grief is not the same as depression, but many of the signs are very similar. With grief, the intense feelings of sadness or withdrawal are likely to decrease over time, while with depression these feelings are more constant and ongoing. Grief does not include a lasting feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness or continuing thoughts about death or suicide.
  • Grief has been described as a “painful tearing” feeling that comes in waves. These waves of grief can be triggered by a new loss or reminders of your past losses. Those who are grieving usually respond well to comfort and support.
  • Remember to use your family and your health care team for support.


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