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October 25, 2017 Brigitte Ganger

The Five Stages of Grief: Depression

The "Lost Cause" stage

The Five Stages of Grief: Depression
Depression is a common part of grief—even for those who don't experience clinical depression or episodes of recurring sadness. (Shutterstock)

When you've lost all hope that ignoring, smashing, or bribing the problem will fix your pain, you may feel ready to give up altogether. Welcome to the worst stage: depression.

Everyone has felt depressed at some time in their life. Breakups, work-related issues, and simply having too much on your plate can cause despondency, sadness and sap your energy. Since depression is both a mood and a condition, conversation surrounding this step can get confusing. In grief, the depression stage is a mix of mood and condition—and if you aren't careful, it can go from mood to condition.

Stay aware of your progress

Prolonged grief can become clinical depression, even if you were never depressed before the death. Remember: practice doesn't make perfect, but practice does make permanent. When you adopt a new habit or mindset, it becomes part of you approach to everything, for better or for worse. Sadness, feeling ugly emotions and wallowing are part and parcel in grief. It sucks, but you have to do it. The depression stage may include physical symptoms such as insomnia, mood swings and loss of appetite. It may bring bouts of extreme anguish, or dull, deadened feelings. While there is no timeline for grief, it is good to push yourself in the right direction when you feel strong enough. 

As a mood, depression can be fleeting, or last several days or weeks. If the feeling of hopelessness persists, it could be an indication that there is an underlying condition present or developing. A traumatic event can spark a period of depression or trigger underlying mental health issues, or suicidal thoughts. If this is happening to you, it's time to go to a grief counselor. 

Reach out to family, friends or a grief counselor if depression is consuming your life. (Shutterstock)

If it's your first time experiencing deep grief, this stage may last so long that it feels like your new normal. When it comes back after a period of relief, it feels like you've just taken 10 steps back. There's not much anyone can do or say to make it better. 

So what can you do to make it better?

1. Trust that it will slowly improve. 

One day you will look back in awe of your progress, even if right now it doesn't feel like that day is ever going to come.

2. Take care of your body.

Everything you do to your body has an effect on how you feel mentally. Exercise,  hydration, proper nutrition, a healthy social life, and cutting back on substances such as alcohol will improve your mindset.

3. Talk about your feelings

Find someone you trust—a counselor, friend, family member, or someone who knew your loved one—and use your words. Talking about grief takes the power out of death. Start developing a vocabulary of feelings words. Practice acknowledging difficult feelings with "I" statements—even if they are feelings you'd rather not feel. Example: "Since my brother died, I feel like part of myself has died too."

4. Boost your confidence.

Depression has a way of making us internalize our most negative thoughts. Are you feeling worthless? Selfish? Helpless? Stupid? Hateful? Guilty? All these feelings are possible in the depression stage. Remember—this is your time to grieve. This is the worst part of grief, so revel in how bad it feels, remember the things that make you you, and treat yourself with kindness. 

5. Get comfortable with balance

Feeling depressed is not going to be a fun time. Try to strike the right balance of giving in to powerful emotions, taking time to be reclusive, pushing yourself to workout and resume activities you enjoyed before the loss, and having faith that things will improve little by little. Remember, depression is a common part of grief—even for those who don't experience clinical depression or episodes of recurring sadness. Not every day is going to be good, and that's fine right now.

Still feeling down? Don't worry, tomorrow we're finally settling comfortably into Acceptance.


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