Don’t mistake sadness for depression after the death of a child. Many of the symptoms are similar, but depression is a disease and requires treatment and supervision according to Dr. Robert Thompson, family practitioner, bereaved father, and author of Remembering the Death of a Child.
“That is an important distinction,” he said. “Sadness over the death of a loved one is not a disease. The sad person is usually sad about a particular event, in this case the death of a child. But sad people are also capable of feeling joy and empathy as well as sadness. The depressed person is very limited in their emotional responses. They feel so bad so much of the time that they really cannot relate to other people and experience any joy or pleasure in their life at all. That’s not true of sadness. Sadness stays with us, more or less intense, for our entire life. It’s not something we can run away from nor do we want to. Depression usually has a beginning and an end, hopefully. Those are the main differences.”
According to Dr. Gloria Horsley, professional therapist, one of the things about depression is that you don’t hear most bereaved people saying they want to kill themselves. They may say they wish they weren’t living or they wish they could join the person who died, but that is very different from the idea that they really want to kill themselves.
Ronald Knapp’s book Beyond Endurance documented this theory in a study that looked at people over a period of six months and one of the characteristics that all families who have suffered through the death of a child have was a general desire to follow the child. There were no suicides in his group.
There are some therapists who can mistake that and not realize it is not a suicidal thought. It is just a thought of wanted to rejoin the person, a natural parental instinct.
I remember thinking when Marcy died that I would gladly have traded places with her. I was almost 50 years old at the time and had lived a majority of my life, a good life, but thought, “Marcy has just begun to live and had so much more to do.” I never really contemplate suicide as an answer to my sadness. It never even crossed my mind.
Below are some signs of depression. The ones I have marked can be either sadness or depression, but understand that all of these listed can relate to depression only. I list them so that you will be careful and understand the difference between sadness and depression in your life and be able to deal with getting through this difficult part.
- Difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep at night (can be either)
- Waking up early in the morning, feeling anxious and irritable
- Marked changed in appetite, either toward overeating or loss of appétit; substantial weight changes (can be either)
- Increased use of sleeping pills, other medications, alcohol or caffeine
- Uncharacteristic short-temperedness, crying or agitation
- Delay or neglect of vital physical needs (can be either)
- Decreased resistance to illness (can be either)
- Loss of energy or fatigue (can be either)
- Subdued mood; expressionless face or flat tone of voice
- Rough handling and other signs of impatience in giving care
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.