The Grief Dilemma

John McManamy Health Guide
  • In a recent sharepost, I asked: Is it grief or is it depression? Your answers reveal, in essence, that there are no simple answers. As Tabby, who has lost several people very close to her in a short time observed:

    In the immediate time, after the loss, I grieved immensely for them BUT returned to work ... returned to daily functioning ... and yet, still grieved.
    The depression of their loss, within my life; the "hole" created for which they once were... was quite painful and still... some, to this day... still quite painful. Yet, the depressive grief I went through was for a time ... for a season.

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    Indeed, Tabby speaks for just about all of us in saying:

    I would not medicate someone for grief over a loss of a person or job or marriage.  We already have too many folks medicated for damn near everything now.  Let folks just be human and feel something.

    She adds that when normal human feeling crosses a certain line, then we can look at meds.

    But what happens when grief butts up against mental illness? Judy brings up “complicated grief,” involving unresolved stored losses in the brain:

    We experience an episode of depression, and it kind of dredges up all of the previous losses and maybe not even consciously, so we start feeling hopeless about ever feeling better.

    Can we untangle the two? It’s one thing to medicate ourselves when depression rears its ugly head, but do we want to be anesthetizing ourselves against emotions we need to be feeling? As Shelley notes: “God gave us each and every one of our emotions. It's OK to feel them.”

    We have no choice. We HAVE to feel them. We HAVE to grieve. We’ll never find peace, otherwise. But, as HeyJude, who went through a terrible loss eight years ago, observed, “the grieving process is very different for me (as a bipolar) than for grieving non-bipolars.”

    She goes on to say:

    My pdoc, in his wisdom, told me to do my best to separate my illness from my grieving.  I tried to take his advice but was not successful. Instead, at some point my grieving and my bipolar ended up on a collision course.

    Rene acknowledges she couldn’t have gotten through her loss without medications treatment:

    I attempted suicide while being off my antidepressant.  The first dose I took when I got back on it did a big difference.

    The fact that she initially tried weather the storm without a chemical assist speaks to the dilemma we all face, namely: How can we feel what we need to feel without feeling too much?

    The sum total of your answers: There are no simple answers.

    Many thanks to all of you who shared your insight and wisdom, which was borne of terrible personal experience. I know this would have been a very painful exercise, but I also trust it was a healing one, as well - for you and for those touched by your words.

Published On: March 28, 2010