My Grief Care

Grief & Mental Health

5 Episodes

Episode 1 : How Grief Affects Mental Health


Episode Notes

Introduction to Grief & Mental Health

Even though grievers can experience distressing symptoms that cause them to worry about their mental health, usually, these are natural reactions, and grief should not be considered a mental illness on its own. Let’s look at the relationship between grief and mental disorders.

First and foremost, I want to clarify that Grieving is not a mental disorder. Grieving is not pathological even though you may experience some psychological symptoms such as depressive or anxious thoughts, persistent deep sadness, unwanted intrusive thoughts, guilt, and so on. Having psychological symptoms in response to the death of a loved one can be very uncomfortable and disturbing. But, that is different than having a mental disorder.

However, it would be inaccurate to pretend there is no relationship between grief and one’s mental state. Let me explain.

Grief is a natural and normal reaction to losing a loved one. Mental disorders are diagnosed by mental health professionals based on specific criteria, including psychological symptoms.

So, you might respond, “Wait a second, Ron, that definition of mental disorders sounds a lot like what I’m experiencing as I grieve!”

You are right – experiencing grief can undoubtedly elicit a variety of psychological and emotional symptoms. But, grief-induced symptoms are not abnormal for an otherwise mentally healthy person. We don’t want to put a label of “mental disorder” on a natural and understandable response to the loss of a loved one.

So, how can we distinguish between grief and mental illnesses?

Well, the answer to that question is not always simple or easy. Why? Consider the following:

  •   Grief and some mental health disorders share common symptoms
  •   A person already struggling with a specific mental disorder, after losing a loved one, may experience greater psychological and emotional symptoms

Despite experiencing some disturbing symptoms, it is best to start with the assumption that you are simply experiencing grief-related symptoms (unless you were diagnosed with a mental disorder by a competent mental health professional before experiencing the loss).

You might be struggling with thoughts and questions such as:

  •   I think I’ve lost my mind – I can’t focus, perform simple tasks, or remember anything!
  •   I’ve read on the internet about clinical depression, and I have a lot of those symptoms
  •   Sometimes, I believe there must be some mistake – they can’t be dead. Or, I’m sure that I saw them in a crowd. Am I delusional?
  •   My anxiety has gone through the roof. I’m worried about everything and completely overwhelmed. I’ve never been so fearful.
  •   I don’t even know what day it is most of the time. Am I experiencing dementia?

Let me ask you this. Were you experiencing these symptoms before losing your loved one? If not, then the simple answer is that you are almost certainly experiencing some debilitating but natural elements of the grieving process.

I want you to hear this. The truth is that grief can really be this bad. And, I’m sad to report that while some of these symptoms will lessen in time, there is no specific timeline or order to heal from the loss of someone important in your life. Yet, I can say to you that the emotional and psychological pain you feel, as bad as it is, is most often attributable to your state of grieving.

At the same time, if you are struggling with concerns for your psychological health, please see your primary care physician or seek a licensed mental health professional to help you sort out your concerns or to get some help to relieve some of your symptoms.

Could there be anything wrong with seeking out the help of a qualified professional?

Beyond this overview of the relationship between grieving and mental health, I’ve created a series of episodes regarding this topic with more detail that you may find helpful. I look forward to walking through those with you when you are ready to watch them.


  •   Grief and mental illness sometimes share certain specific types of symptoms.
  •   Grief, however, is a normal and natural response to loss and should not be considered a mental illness on its own.
  •   If you had a mental illness diagnosed before you lost your loved one, your related symptoms might worsen in response to your loss and subsequent grief.
  •   If your mental state concerns you, seek out the help of a medical doctor and/or a mental health professional.


If you are thinking, “I can’t let myself be like this, I have to be strong!” Please challenge your thinking by asking yourself, “Do I really have to be strong when I am feeling overwhelmed and weak?” And, then consider, “Who might be able to help me get through this time, and what might I ask of them?”


Grieving is a natural and normal response to loss. The path to healing requires giving ourselves grace, allowing ourselves to feel, and avoiding forming expectations of quick, resilient healing. Trying to overcome grief by determination or avoidance merely delays the inevitable and lengthens the journey.

I encourage you to look for my additional episodes on this topic regarding grief and mental illness.