Depression and the Death of Loved Ones
We all experience grief a little bit differently. Some people isolate themselves and spend weeks or months crying, while others constantly seek the company of others and use alcohol or drugs in an effort to numb their pain. The latter can sometimes seem uncaring, but it isn’t that they don’t care. They just have a hard time coping, so they try to distract themselves from the pain.
Facing the loss, and learning to accept it and cope with it are essential. Many people say that funerals are a waste of time and money since the deceased person is not there. However, as we all know, the funeral isn’t really for the deceased person—-it is for the family and friends of the loved one who is gone. It is a chance for people who are grieving to share their feelings, thoughts and love with others who are feeling the same way. It is also a way to show our respect for the deceased.
There is another very important aspect of a funeral that few people discuss. When someone dies, especially if it happens unexpectedly, it is extremely difficult for us to accept. It’s hard to “wrap your head around” the fact that this person with whom you are so close, is not coming back because he or she is really dead. That is why I believe funerals are so important. Seeing the body of the person you love lying there lifeless is extremely painful, but it helps your mind comprehend the fact that your loved one is no longer in that body. It helps you to let go.
Though we have different ways of coping with death, and spending some time alone to collect yourself after losing a loved one is natural, it’s not good to isolate yourself indefinitely. Isolation tends to compound symptoms of depression, so don’t allow yourself to pull away from family and friends for more than a week or so. Talking with others, whether it’s about your loss or not, can be very helpful in recovering from your loss.
Sometimes writing about your feelings can help you to cope with them. Keeping a journal, and perhaps writing about special memories of the one over whom you are grieving, can be a cathartic way to handle your pain.
Maybe you could do something to honor your loved one, such as donating money to a charity in his or her name. Maybe you could commission a painting from one of your favorite pictures of this person, or maybe your could write a poem or a song about him or her.
After taking some time to accept the death and honor the memory of your loved one, you have to move on. You have to continue your life. Try to keep busy. Do things that you enjoy. Don’t avoid doing things that remind you of the person you lost. Continue to do the things you love, creating new memories with others, or alone.
Many times, after the death of a loved one, we feel as if it isn’t fair that we are still here, alive, and they are gone. Especially in the case of an accident, a homicide, or a natural disaster, we might feel survivor’s remorse. It is understandable, but it is not rational. It is not fair that the person was lost, but you shouldn’t feel guilty that you are alive. If you are suffering from survivor’s remorse, find comfort in knowing that we are all assigned a day to die. If you survived, it is because your time hasn’t come yet, and it isn’t your fault that your loved one is gone.
We also sometimes feel guilty for experiencing joy or pleasure after the death of a loved one. We feel as though we should be in constant pain, experiencing overwhelming grief for much longer than is typical. In that case, you should remember that your loved one would not want you to be perpetually overwhelmed with sadness. Anyone who loves you would want you to be happy, and continue to live-—not to be miserable and grief-stricken forever.
Everyone grieves and heals in his or her own time, but some of us need help in learning to cope with a loss. There is no shame in meeting with a licensed therapist to talk about your feelings regarding the loss, and/or any other issues which might be contributing to your depression. If your depression is still lingering after three months, I’d suggest that you speak with your family doctor or a therapist.
As painful and depressing as death is, it is a part of life that we can’t avoid. We all have to deal with it at some point. Try not to isolate, and avoid “self medicating” with alcohol or drugs. Do things that you enjoy, and don't feel guilty for being alive! It's okay to enjoy life and to continue to live even after losing someone you love. Live, laugh, love, and be thankful for every moment of life because nothing is guaranteed.
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