There is a common saying in life, ‘nothing lasts forever.’ Unfortunately, this sentiment is true. As such, when we go through loss, whether that loss relates to a job, pet, friend or family member, some common emotions begin to surface. Understanding our emotions during grief will help us heal.
Tangled up in loss are often feelings of sadness, grief and even depression. While it can be easy to think that these emotions are interchangeable, that isn’t quite the case. In fact, these three emotional states are quite different.
Undoubtedly a heavy topic, it’s still good to understand elements of sadness, grief and depression. This way, you can recognise the signs, the naturalness of these emotions and when to seek help if these feelings do not subside.
Feelings aren’t static. This means that some days you can feel happy while other days you might feel sad. While this isn’t a nice feeling, it’s important to note that feeling sad is not only common, but also normal. It is said that pain is a necessity.
When it comes to feeling sadness, this emotional pain typically has a clear cause. It might be that you’ve had an argument with a friend. You might have lost out on a promotion. Maybe someone close to you has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The important thing to remember is to give yourself permission to be sad. In fact, sadness is actually a healthy emotion to feel. This is because it can show others around us how we really feel and what we value in life.
In terms of coping with feelings of sadness, it’s important to be open and honest. While it can be a good technique to lose yourself in fun activities or relaxation exercises, it’s important and healthy to acknowledge why you are feeling this way.
The power of grief
While sadness is an emotion we feel, grief is a reaction to that feeling. For some, grief is often intense or distressing. For others, there can be feelings of sadness but also happiness as you remember the life of a departed loved one. No two people will grieve the same.
Feelings of sadness might come on one day and be gone the next, however, grief tends to be more drawn-out. When dealing with grief, it’s important to remain kind to yourself. This means allowing yourself the time and space to appropriately deal with the different stages of grief.
The thing about grief is, it’s not predictable. As such, it might affect thoughts, feelings, behaviours, beliefs and even physical health. It’s also common, in some circumstances, for grief to affect your relationships with others.
The process of grief, while a natural reaction to feelings of loss, can be aided by the implementation of coping strategies. You may wish to spend more time with family, take up a new hobby, or spend time visiting a memorial tree erected in honour of the departed.
The difference with depression
As previously mentioned, sadness is an emotion we all feel. Grief is typically a reaction to that feeling of sadness. On the other hand, depression is a mental health condition that may result from feeling sadness or grief. Depression may also result from biological factors.
Depression is particularly debilitating as it affects all aspects of life, making it hard to perform everyday tasks or indulge in activities that previously evoked feelings of happiness. As depression is constant, it’s often known to cause individuals to lose self-esteem.
While there is a fine line between grief and depression, it’s important to note that the complete absence of joy for more than two weeks at a time can indicate depression. However, symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
When dealing with depression, it’s common to experience behavioural and physical symptoms. These symptoms can range from feeling tired and sad to having trouble focusing and sleeping. It’s common to experience changing eating patterns and feelings of anxiety.
Dealing with complicated emotions
Whether dealing with sadness, grief or depression, these are complicated emotions that can result in major internal and external changes. However, it’s important to note that these feelings will not last forever.
There will be periods of both happiness and sadness. Finding ways to cope involves acknowledging the feelings and implementing strategies to overcome them. Strategies can be simple like taking a walk, or more complex such as talking things through with a professional.
The range of human emotions
Life is rarely simple and never boring. As such, a natural part of life is dealing with loss. However, an instance of loss can provoke emotions such as sadness, grief and even depression. Rather than letting emotions rule your life, take back control.
By understanding that these emotions are both common and a natural bodily response, these dark feelings can be re-evaluated. Giving you both the space needed to implement helpful strategies and the time needed to overcome such feelings.