1. Our next Q&A session is on the topic of Christmas and dementia.This time we want our Q&A to involve our resident experts, you! Share tips and advice on navigating Christmas here in this thread.

    Pop by and post your questions or if you prefer you can email your question to us at talkingpoint@alzheimers.org.uk and we'll be happy to ask them on your behalf.

Grief or depression and how do you tell the difference?

Discussion in 'After dementia — dealing with loss' started by jenniferpa, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    For the most part since my mother died I've been ticking over OK - some days better, some days worse, but over the last few days all I seem to want to do is cry (well bawl really). Partly it seems to have been triggered by my daughter going back to college - her last semester and I guess it just hit me that she'll probably never live at home again. I mean I "knew" it before. but I didn't "know" it if you see what I mean. It also made me realise how difficult it must have been for my mother to have said goodbye to me over the years. So it could be grief. On the other hand it was so sudden, so out of the blue, it might be depression. How do you tell the difference? If it's depression I need to see my psychiatrist but if it's grief I need to work through it. You'd think I'd know, wouldn't you, but I don't.
  2. christine_batch

    christine_batch Registered User

    Jul 31, 2007
    Dear Jennifer,
    When my eldest two left home within weeks of each other, the void was horrible. I kept crying, could not eat and I still had two younger children to see to.
    I went to my Doctor, a brillaint person who told me that although I had brought them up to be ready and prepared for the big wide world, I was grieving for them not living at home anymore.
    Putting me on a mild tanquilliser for a while and you know how you go over and over things, well that is what I was doing. Only when I came to terms that I had prepared them for the big wide world and that I would still be seeing them on a regular basis. That was when everything made sense.Perhaps not having your Mother there for support is a double blow because my Mother was not there for me, I can understand the feeling.
    I wish you all the best.
  3. DeborahBlythe

    DeborahBlythe Registered User

    Dec 1, 2006
    Dear Jennifer, I've no advice or thoughts on this, but send you lots of sympathy and kindest regards. Take it easy. Love Deborah
  4. noelphobic

    noelphobic Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    It's a good question Jennifer, but there is no easy answer. Grief can of course cause depression, but that is generally reactive depression, rather than clinical depression, which often doesn't have an obvious cause. For myself I would say that when I am grieving I cry, when I am clinically depressed I don't. Obviously that isn't true of lots of people, many people cry buckets when they are depressed. I actually wish I could at times, because not crying when I am depressed means I am keeping things locked up inside of me, which isn't doing me any good. When I have been severely depressed I sometimes think that I am afraid to cry, because if I start I may never stop!

    I also understand the feelings when a child flies the nest. My son's diabetes diagnosis while he was sitting his GCSEs made me feel that my little birdie would be flying the nest with a broken wing, which made it harder still! I doubt that David will ever come back to live here permanently, and I am trying to prepare myself for that eventuality, even though he is presently only a second year undergraduate, and is considering doing a Masters after his degree!

    So no solutions Jennifer, but lots of sympathy and empathy!
  5. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    Dear Jennifer.

    I know I have sent you a PM but I believe some of it needs repeating here.

    Being lucky never to have suffered depression, I`m not the one to be able to compare it with grief.

    But I know some of the ordeals you have had to face during the last 5 months and also the uncertainty the future holds. It is not just your mother dying, as if that isn`t enough, or your daughter leaving the nest, you have a very sick husband too.

    And I think you have tried to present a very brave face, have kept yourself occupied by helping others but have not asked for help for yourself.

    Perhaps you should see your doctor, to get a professional opinion.

    Meanwhile. please try to off load a bit more on TP. It is for you as much as it`s for anyone. You are very highly regarded and I`m sure none of us would like to feel you are suffering in silence.

    Love xx
  6. connie

    connie Registered User

    Mar 7, 2004
    Dear Jennifer. Sylvia is right. You have so much to contend with at present.

    We are here for you.
  7. BeckyJan

    BeckyJan Registered User

    Nov 28, 2005
    Hello Jennifer:

    I suspect that your feelings about your daughter are surfacing the grief you have for your Mother. We all seem to jog along ok until something triggers and obviously this is the case with you.

    If you husband is very sick then that heightens the whole situation for you. Have you a close friend with whom you can share your feeling? Just to talk them through will no doubt help, even if it does result in lots of weeping.

    Having said that I do not cry easily and if suddenly I found myself crying alot, like you I would wonder what was wrong.

    The answer would seem to me that you are suffering both!!
    Looking back I was extremely sad when my daughters each left home, but now I am so grateful to have them as exceptionally good friends, not close in distance but only a telephone call away. I hope that thought helps a little.

    Sorry to ramble. Hope you feel better soon.
    Best wishes Jan
  8. Lonestray

    Lonestray Registered User

    Aug 3, 2006
    I'm in somewhat the same boat as you, except I can't imagine your pain at not having your Mom. Maybe like me it hurts to look back and see all the happy times and memories. Then you look forward and imagine the worst, being alone,concern for your children who've flown the nest. Change and the unknown, makes for fear. Right now I'm very much alone, I have no friends. There are reminders all around of my Jean. How do I cope? I try very hard to just concentrate on the present, NOW. When my mind flits back I count the blessings she's left me. There's our daughter, son, the 9 grandchildren. In daughter and grand daughters, I can see her features passed down. One is the image of her as a young girl. I know our daughter is aware that when she looks in the mirror she sees her Mom,she's been told often enough how much she looks like her. She embodies all her Mom was. The future for now I can't say, except to hope and plan. I'm hoping to go to Spain with our daughter next month.
    How about this our daughter has just turned up with her grandson, so there is some sunshine.
    Sorry Jennifer if this is of little help, but I pray that you have some sunshine soon. Padraig
  9. Mameeskye

    Mameeskye Registered User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Hi Jennifer


    I so understand what you say about realising how it must have been for your Mum too. My kids are a lot younger but then Mum has had VAD since before they were born.

    I would chat to your doc. It may be that it is "only" grief..hah..what a silly phrase, but if it is depression starting and you can have help why deny yourself something to make it easier through not knowing what to call it!

    For me if depressed I feel nothing, when the depression passes ad the grief starts the tears start to flow again but I know that everyone is different. Dealing with care for my Mum this week I felt sad, but "normally" so, if you know what I mean. I knew that I would feel better again soon but in the earlier days this wasn't always the way.

    Hope that you get lots of nice visits with your daughter in the years to come, and just think, you can go and visit her, mess up her place and get her to do your washing when you visit!

  10. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    H Jennifer,
    Well my dear, you are not Wonder Woman (but you are very close). I suspect it is mostly grief. I think you have been in "Full speed ahead and damn the torpedos" mode for a long time now and things have finally caught up with you. You've pushed things under the carpet for quite a long time and you've had so much to deal with - your mother's death, your husband's illness, and now the realization that your children will be leaving the nest soon.

    What to do? Seeing a doctor can't hurt. Venting here can only help, I think. But I'm a big believer in venting. Have your cries - they'll do you good once in a while. You have a lot of crying in you and should get it out.

    Take care of yourself - we want our feisty, no-holds-barred Jennifer back to her top strength.

  11. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    Thanks guys.

    I'm not really prone to analysing what's going on in my head, but this took me by surprise. I mean I have been clinically depressed in the past and found medication effective, but it was easier to know I was depressed because I had nothing to be depressed about, if that makes sense. After all, if everything is going swimmingly and you're crying like a tap, you're so tired you can't do anything, and everything seems pointless, then it doesn't take a genius to work out that there might be something chemically wrong. However, without wallowing I think it's fair to say that I have a certain amount about which I can be justifiably depressed at the moment, so may be it's not unreasonable that I should feel like this. Also, this time, I don't feel so exhausted - a bit tired but not sleep for 20 out of every 24 hours exhausted. Another difference - in the past when depressed if I was told "some people have it far worse than you" (true) it wouldn't make me feel better, it would make me feel worse, but that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment. I would really rather deal with this without medication if at all possible - if nothing else I don't have the time (or the money) to deal with doctors appointments and uncovered medical expenses (sigh). That's an excuse though really - if I felt it was vital I could find it somewhere I suppose.
  12. Nell

    Nell Registered User

    Aug 9, 2005
    #12 Nell, Jan 16, 2008
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2008
    Dear Jennifer,

    You have my immense sympathy. I cannot answer your dilemma but I can understand that it is making life pretty unbearable at present. Big {{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}}}}!

    If you are not keen on the doctor / medication route, can you do a "life style" change that will (hopefully) help you to feel better??

    Without knowing your life style or your personal situation, it is hard to know what to suggest. So I'll just tell you what works for me!

    Plenty of rest
    As little work as possible - both paid work and work at home
    Eating really good food - as in fresh and nutritious
    "Treats" - massage, pedicure, new book - whatever makes you feel good / feel happy
    Time with my dearest hubby that is without commitments - just being together.

    Having said all that, if I'm in the grip of depression, I find myself unable to do any of it - or if I do something, unable to sustain it.

    I "self medicate" in inappropriate and unhelpful ways such as:

    "drown" myself in work commitments
    take on a range of other commitments that allows me no time to think - let alone relax!
    eat chocolate, cake, anything that sems to dull the pain for a short time.
    avoid outings or pleasurable occasions

    As you can see, it is a case of "Physician, heal thyself!" for me! So I'm not going to say I can do the "good stuff" when I need it - just that when I CAN do it, I feel better, calmer, happier - and more productive.

    I wish you the best possible outcome to your present situation. It is hard to believe when you are in the grip of it, but "this too will pass". Remember that you are a very highly valued and treasured TPer and your whole virtual community is wishing you well.
  13. Cate

    Cate Registered User

    Jul 2, 2006
    Newport, Gwent
    Hi Jennifer

    I'm no expert, but its still very early days for you, and I would say that all you are going through is quite normal grief. I found that for a good 2 years after my dad died, the grief and tears would still sneak up on me when I least expected it. Give yourself time, look after yourself.

    Sending you a massive hug.

    Cate xxxx
  14. CraigC

    CraigC Registered User

    Mar 21, 2003
    Firstly, apologies for this, but I'm just going to hijack this thread as I have an issue which is a bit related. Hopefully Jennifer will forgive me and see the connection.

    My mum passed away about seven weeks ago and although life is a bit up and down, most of the time I feel that I'm coping OK. To be honest I don't know how to feel and just get on with it as there is the family, work and of course my dad to keep me busy. I do feel the grief now and then, it comes in a wave and a pain near the heart, but it passes quickly thankfully.

    However, I am suffering very badly with insomnia at the moment. Just to say I've had it before over the last few years, but not as regularly as this. Insomnia usually hits me when worried about something, but really I don't feel worried at the moment. Also, insomnia is double edged as it can make any sleep that you do get very disturbing and broken, dreams becoming very scary and easier to memorise.

    Just looking for a sanity check here. As someone said in this thread, it is still early days and grief manifest itself in many ways.

    At what point do I see the doctor?
    Is insomnia really one of the symptoms of grief?

    I've tried plenty of herbal remedies (nytol etc) but they just seem to knock me out for hours if at all. Get loads of exercise and am following the insomniacs rule book on eating/drinking and not watching TV or working near bed time etc. So not much else I can do.

    Any first hand experience would be appreciated
  15. andrear

    andrear Registered User

    Feb 13, 2008
    #15 andrear, Apr 30, 2008
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2008
    HI Craig

    You are going through the motions at the moment, and may not want to identify it as greiving. You have such a lot on your plate with your daily duties on top of everything else. May I ask, have you asked/sorced any form of bereavement counselling. It will help in the longrun and you will find that unburdoning onto others i.e. someone outside of immediate familiy, friends etc. can work wonders both in the short and long term. You should also be able to sleep somewhat better but this will take a while because you would need to feel that the counsellor or indeed befriender is on your wavelength.

    Grief can manefest itself in lots of differnt ways and you may find that you get pains and indeed feel unwell generally even down to feeling fluey or having a cold.

    If possible try to be as calm and quiet as is possible before
    bedtime. Perhaps a relaxation CD or something that you know does actually help you (personally)to unwind. Maybe close your eyes and think of yourself somewhere which is calming for you.
    Take care and don't keep in what you are feeling inside because there is a lot of help out there for you if you are able to reach out and grab it.

    Sorry, forgot to add this:

    If you have any pains I should seek out medical advice through your GP just to rule out anything untowards.
  16. andrear

    andrear Registered User

    Feb 13, 2008
    HI Craig

    Sorry, forgot to add this:

    If you have any pains I should seek out medical advice through your GP just to rule out anything untowards.
  17. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    Hello Craig.

    I haven`t suffered the grief you are suffering but basic common sense tells me;
    insomnia can be caused by stress
    grief is stress
    insomnia can be caused by grief.

    But I would certainly see my GP if I were you, just to be sure there is no underlying cause.

    Love xx
  18. Skye

    Skye Registered User

    Aug 29, 2006
    SW Scotland
    Hi Craig

    It sounds as if you are keeping grief at bay during the day by keeping busy. (Yes, I know, you have a lot on your plate, and don't have time to grieve!):rolleyes:

    Give yourself time!

    Make time to have a walk in the park, sit on a bench and allow the thoughts to come. So maybe you'll cry. So what? Real men are allowed to cry! If you're embarrassed, take a drive out to the country and park in a quiet place.

    Make space for yourself!

    At the moment, you're allowing yourself no time during the day, so your subconscious is taking over at night.

    It wouldn't hurt to see a doctor as well, he may give you a short course of an antidepressant to see you over this time.

    But the main thing you need is time. Time to grieve, time to recover, time for CRAIG!

    Because you matter too!

  19. helen.tomlinson

    helen.tomlinson Registered User

    Mar 27, 2008
    Hi Craig

    What I felt by reading Jennifer's original post was that it was o.k. to be bawling and not anything to worry about and I felt similarly about your insomnia. You both describe having experienced big disturbances in your lives (death of loved ones) and there is no rule book about how this will affect each one of us and how long the effects will last. Sometimes I think we just need to give ourselves permission to be 'disturbed' and that can help the healing process. I think you will both know if what you are experiencing is seriously affecting your lives in which case you would then be advised to seek professional help. It does seem for the moment though that both of you are saying that generally you're doing o.k.

    Very best wishes

  20. Mameeskye

    Mameeskye Registered User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Hi Craig

    Didn't want to read and run. I think I have an inkling into how you are feeling too. This last week life has been returing to normal but like you I have found that I am awake in the middle of the night, nothing in particular that is worrying me but I cannot sleep. Some nights I crash but then others I just wake up two, three or even four times and lie awake for ages.

    I have a friend who has a herbalist who assures me that when grieving it is normal. She also assured me that this dratted cough is normal too (it was curious she told me that the lungs were the "grief" organ and likely to be more affected at this time)

    What I want most is to be by myself and listen to music and walk and be sad..but life doesn't let me. I would love to be self indulgent for a while at the moment. I think that Hazel ahs hit the nail on the head when she says find time for yourself. But I also know how difficult this can be as a working parent. Maybe that is what our nighttime hours are..our time to shuffle thoughts around and make sense of our new life structure.

    Thinking of you.


Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.