Dr. Jon Reid, a Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Southeastern Oklahoma State, talks about depression following grief with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference. He’s a certified fellow in thanatology from ADEC. “How do I know if I’m depressed or just grieving?” That’s a common question from those who have experienced a loss. If someone thinks they’re depressed, they might wonder if medication is part of the answer. Medication isn’t necessary for grief, explains Dr. Reid. Grief is a natural response to a loss, but it can be hard to tell if/when depression creeps in.

Concern should happen if someone’s sadness keeps them locked in their house. How long does grief take before knowing it’s depression? That’s tough to gauge since everyone is different. Grief lasts much longer than a few days or weeks, explains Dr. Reid. You can feel those intense feelings of sadness for the first year or several years depending on the type of loss. Most of that sadness isn’t constant with grief—it is constant with depression.

The Surprises of Grief

Those who haven’t had a loss are often surprised by how others grieve. Certain times of year, such as the holidays, can bring up feelings of grief all over again. The sadness and anger can come back without it being grief. Those who are truly depressed after a loss need to talk to someone they trust. There are support groups, professional help, crisis hotlines, and family members. Some people prefer to write about it, not talk about it.

Over time, those intense feelings will wane a little bit. However, if depression is part of the situation, that may not be the case. It’s important to determine whether it’s grief, depression, or both.


Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ​National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

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