Grief is the reaction to a loss. It subsides over time. We might never feel complete relief for that loss, but being wistful for someone or something is not the same as being depressed. Grief is limited to one or more bothersome losses. Depression is persistent and far-reaching, not necessarily related to loss. It is a reaction to perceptions that might not be accurate, and misplaced values.
According to the Marie Curie site, these are physical symptoms of grief:
Physical symptoms of grief
- overwhelming tiredness and exhaustion.
- restlessness‒ feeling unable to sit still.
- aches and pains, eg headaches, backache, neck pain, rib and chest pain.
- anxiety attacks.
- difficulty breathing.
- loss of appetite.
- comfort eating.
- finding it hard to sleep or fear of sleeping.
The Recover from Grief site includes emotional symptoms of grief, including how they’re expressed:
“Are you sure I’m not going crazy?”— emotional and mental symptoms
“Where are all my friends?” — social changes
“So where was God during all of this?” — spiritual challenges
“Is this bizarre, or what?” — unusual experiences
“Do I need help?” — warning signs that professional help is needed
Despite the differences, and there are others to consider, the essential difference between grief and depression is that grief becomes less intense over time. Depression doesn’t budge. It can sabotage the sex drive, cause inexplicable pain that medication won’t effect, reduce appetite and thus energy levels already low from lingering sadness, and end someone’s interest in life. Instead of taking disappointments in stride, much of life becomes inexcusable. Irritability and unwavering anger dominate the moods of some depressed people who no longer differentiate between trivialities and genuine problems.
People can die from grief or depression. Intense grief can lead to cardiomyopathy, damaged heart muscle that thickens, becomes oversized, or stiffens. Depression kills as a person loses the desire to remain alive. Human bodies respond to emotional signals by launching a cascade of chemicals that support or hurt our health. Suicidal efforts might succeed, including the choice to stop eating. If a person decides that they are worthless, they just might program their bodies to self-destruct or make suicidal efforts. Grief-stricken people don’t suffer self-worth issues, so if their health deteriorates to a dangerous degree, it’s not from being on self-destruct mode. Grief is about a miserable mindset and the destructive chemicals that it causes.
If you or someone you know are facing grief or depression, possibly both at the same time, seek a therapist who can ease you out of the suffering. There are talk therapies, medications and many other techniques – including all-natural methods – that solve the problem(s) for people across the world.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.