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Coping with the Loss of a Spouse: Is it Grief or Is It Depression? Dr. Hayley Hirschmann with Morris Psychological Group Provides Tips for Grieving
Date:7/24/2014

sist for years. It is characterized by an inability to accept the loss and resume a satisfying life. “Although anyone can suffer from complicated grief, it is more likely to occur when the death was sudden or violent,” says Dr. Hirschmann. “It is also more likely when the relationship was angry or ambivalent or when the mourner was overly dependent on the deceased.” Symptoms include prolonged preoccupation with reminders and memories of the deceased, intense longing for the spouse, blaming oneself for the death, and bitterness about the loss. Complicated grief often entails symptoms of depression and is not likely to resolve without treatment.

Depression
Grief and depression both involve feelings of sadness and it is often thought that depression is a natural manifestation of grief. In fact, the two are different. The sadness associated with mourning a spouse is specific to the loss, fluctuates in intensity – there are good and bad days – and wanes over time. The sadness that accompanies depression is more generalized, more persistent and more severe. People suffering from depression are sad almost all the time, have difficulty managing daily routines, are unable to find interest or pleasure in most activities and cannot shake feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. As with complicated grief, depression is unlikely to fade and requires treatment.

“For years, there has been conventional wisdom that says we grieve in stages, beginning with denial and ending with acceptance,” says Dr. Hirschmann. “But studies have shown that there is no one way that people respond to the loss of a spouse and that even for a particular individual, mourning does not follow a smooth progression. Most peoples' moods fluctuate as they have wild swings of hopeful and despairing feelings that gradually diminish in frequency and intensity. Whatever the pattern, we can recommend coping strategies for getting through the acute phases of grief.”

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