DEPRESSION FOLLOWING A DEATH
Overcoming the death of a loved one is very difficult and, in some cases, but
fortunately quite rarely, it can trigger depressive syndromes. However, normal
reactions to death must not be confused with signs of depression, even if they
are very similar.
The painful phases
The pain that death causes normally goes through five phases:
- Denying reality and isolation This is a defence mechanism that allows us to alleviate the intense initial phase
of pain. It is a temporary, psychological response.
- Anger When the masking effects of denial and isolation start to wear off, the reality
of the situation and the relative pain reappear. However, the suffering person
is not yet ready for this so the intense emotions he/she feels are deflected and
redirected and turn into anger. This anger is then directed towards the person
who has died and eventually leads to feeling bad for getting cross with the deceased
person, which in turn fuels the anger even more.
- Self-blame This phase is about blaming oneself for not doing things which could have avoided
or delayed the death. What if they had gone to the doctor before, what if they
had sought specialist help elsewhere...
- Depression Two types of depression are connected to bereavement, one which is more profound
and another related to the practical aspects which death brings with it. The length
of time of this phase varies from a few weeks to six months. The most common symptoms
are a depressed mood, feeling sad, loss of appetite, panic attacks, agitation
and lack of concentration. The majority of people feel like the deceased person
is still present in some way.
- Acceptance After the depression phase, the respective symptoms reside and the person tries
to get back to normality. The duration of this phase varies and not everyone is
able to reach it.
How to overcome depression
It is not necessary to repress feelings too much, in fact you should let your
emotions out, however, in the initial phase they may seem too intense. It is a
good idea to turn to friends and relatives and not keep to ourselves, since supporting
one another can be very helpful. Turning to a specialist is only required in special
cases, like when a person cannot move on from one of the aforementioned phases.
Taking antidepressants may be counter-productive in the early stages as they
may interfere with the mourning process. If you cannot sleep during the first
few nights following the bereavement, the doctor may prescribe tranquilisers,
but only for a limited period of time, after which the treatment should be discontinued.