- Understanding Grief
- People Grieve Differently
- The Brain Fog of Grief
- The Vocabulary of Grief
- Grievers Don’t Need to be Fixed
- Misconceptions About Grief
- There Are No Orderly and Predictable Stages In Grief
- When Caring People Say Dumb Things When You’re Grieving
- What to Say to Others When You’re Grieving
- The Impact of Who you Lost and How you Lost Them
- Heavy Grief Days
- The Grief Letter
- Ways to Remember Them
- Permissions for Grievers
- Creating Bright Spots in the Midst of Grief
- Why Are Many Grievers Not Comfortable Crying In Front of Others?
- Why Grievers Don’t Need to Be Strong
- Do I Just Need Time to Heal From Grief?
- Why Do Grieving People Get the Message They Shouldn’t Be Sad?
- Is Staying Busy Good for Grief?
- The Isolation of Grief
- Can You Fill the Void Left by the Death of Loved One?
- How Long Does the Pain of Grief Last?
- How Do You Get Over Grief?
- I Don’t Want to Forget My Loved One Who Died
- Relationships Change After Loss
- Why Don’t Friends and Family Understand Your Grief?
- How to Tell Others What You Need in Your Grief
- Grief Can Cause You to Re-evaluate Relationships
- I Lost My Spouse and My Friends
- All the Phases in the Grief Journey
- I’m Grieving and Just Barely Surviving
- Why Do I Feel Like I Am Just Existing in My Grief?
- When Will I Be Ready for Grief Counseling?
- Can You Heal Your Grief?
- Living Again After Losing a Loved One
- How Grief Affects Mental Health
- Grief & Depression
- How Trauma Affects Your Grief
- Co-Dependency and Grief
- Should I take medication for my grief?
- The Uniqueness of Grieving A Suicide
- Suicide Shock: I Can’t Believe They Did It
- Feeling Blame and Shame After a Suicide
- The Abandonment of Suicide
- The Stigma of Suicide
- Interview with widow who lost two husbands by suicide
- Losing Your Husband to Suicide
- What To Do With Your Loved One’s Belongings After They Die
- No Cost Financial Coaching & Planning for Widows: Chris Bentley
- Hope When Shattered By Grief
- Answers to Your Questions About Grief
- Is Being Angry at God a Sin After My Loved One Died?
- Where Did My Peace, Joy and Gratitude Go after I lost my loved one?
- Can Grief and Hope Co-Exist?
- Why Does God Heal Some People But Not Others?
- Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin?
- Why Do I Dislike Platitudes and Bible Verses?
- Why Did God Let My Loved One Die?
- Surviving The Holidays
Grief & Mental Health
Foundations Of Grief
Misconceptions About Grief
Relationships After Loss
The Grief Journey
Grief & Mental Health
Grieving A Suicide
Conversations On Grief
Questions Grieving Christians Ask
Coping With The Holidays and Other Tough Special Days
Grief & Mental Health
Episode 1 : How Grief Affects Mental Health
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.