First I would like to thank you for the kind words of sympathy about the passing of my
mother. Issues of loss and grief are part of everyone’s life at times, and based on some
of the feedback I received I will discuss it a bit more in this newsletter.
Grief and Depression
Grief and clinical depression are sometimes confused with each other.
What they have in common are periods of sadness, crying, insomnia, loss of
enjoyment in things usually enjoyed, and sometimes bodily aches and pains.
For the grieving person this can be on and off for hours, days, weeks, or a few
months, and generally abates as time goes on. However, if it continues at the same
level of intensity after 2 or 3 months, it is possible it is turning into depression.
When one is depressed there are accompanying feelings of hopelessness and
helplessness, on-going fatigue, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and a general
difficulty in getting through the day.
Some people are more prone to depression than others. If one has been diagnosed
with clinical (biochemical) depression previously or comes from a family where people
had struggled with depression, those are significant predisoposing factors. There are
also psycho-social factors that can increase one’s vulnerability to depression: early
childhood losses of significant caretakers, trauma, lack of social support in family or
friends, stressful life circumstances, and chronic medical conditions are a few more
Grief and Anxiety
Quite frequently anxiety or panic attacks begin after the sufferer has had a significant
loss in life, although the two are not put together in consequence. The loss might be of
a relationship, an opportunity, a job, one’s independence, or of self-esteem, for instance.
Often the loss is neither mourned nor even acknowledged. Many people have learned how
to “not feel bad” by denying or suppressing their feelings. The emotion is then stored in
the body and mind, the energy of which may be experienced as anxiety.
As Sumeet Kumar, Ph.D. writes in Grieving Mindfully (pg. 145):
“The energy of grief encompasses all that is your identity. Grief happens physically,
emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and interpersonally. It can be seen as a black hole
that emerges, often unexpectedly, in your life. In another metaphor, the process of
accepting and transforming loss and grief becomes like a forest regenerating itself
after a devastating forest fire, which seems catastrophic but is actually part of the
natural order of ecosystems. Some trees even produce seeds that can only be opened
by the intense heat of fire.”
It is a great idea to take a few short relaxation breaks throughout the day
where you breath or stretch away some of the tension that builds up. If you
happen to be sitting at your computer you can follow along with this 2 minute
relaxation video. Go to http://video.about.com and click on “Two minute
Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons.
This is the true story of the author’s efforts to find the meaning of his life
as he lives with and is quickly dying from ALS. He is in his 30’s and has a
wife, children, and career when he is told he has about 5 years left to live.
I found this book to be beautifully written with wit, irony and wisdom.
From Ram Dass: “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”