Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Complicated Grief Versus Depression

posted by Beyond Blue

In the same Johns Hopkins White Papers on Depression and Anxiety, Karen Swartz, the Director of the Affective Disorders Consultation Clinic, distinguishes between “complicated grief” (also called traumatic grief), which occurs in approximately 10 to 20 percent of bereaved persons, from both major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A person who is suffering from complicated grief attempts to do two things: 1) deny, repress, or avoid aspects of the loss, the pain it is causing, and the full realization of its implications for the mourner; and 2) hold on to and avoid relinquishing the lost love one.

Not the same as depression

MDD is marked by a pervasive sad mood, a general loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, a pervasive sense of guilt, and rumination about one’s own perceived past failures or misdeeds.

In contrast, in complicated grief, the person’s emotions revolve around the lost loved one. Feelings of sadness are related to missing the person who died; the mourner experiences intense longing and yearning for contact with and interest in memories of the deceased; and any feelings of guilt are focused on interactions with the person who died. In addition, the mourner is preoccupied with positive thoughts of the deceased and/or intrusive images of the person dying.

Not the same as post-traumatic stress

In PTSD, the person’s feelings are triggered by a physical threat, and the primary emotion is fear. Nightmares are very common, and any painful reminders are specifically linked to the actual traumatic event.

In contrast, in complicated grief, feelings are triggered by the actual loss and the primary emotion is sadness. Nightmares are rare, and painful reminders are more pervasive and unexpected. And, as noted above, the mourner feels considerable longing for the lost loved one and experiences persistent obsessive thought about, and preoccupation with, the deceased and elements of the loss.



  • http://HASH(0xcf32c44) Vicki Moore

    I just lost a son 7 weeks ago and wish to join him is that normal in this stage of loss

  • http://HASH(0xcf34bc8) Carol

    it is very normal and you will feel like that for some time. I know I have felt that way for close to the first 8 months of losing my only daughter. She was 7 months pregnant with her 2nd child and was celebrating her 30 th birthday when her and her husband were both killed in a car accident on their way home. Their 18 month old child survived the accident. I still don’t deal with this. It will be 2 years this month. I still want to deny this.

  • http://HASH(0xcf34e2c) Diana Tullos

    this is not the same as a death, but can a divorce after 27 years also have the same affect as a death, especially when at first you did not want it, the divorce I mean. I guess knowing he is still out there,is what hurt the most.

  • monisha

    i am an only child age 39 .My mother was widowed 5 yrs ago hen my father suddenly passed away due to a heart attack .My mum and dad had a very rocky marrriage with frequent fights athome and in public .Now that he is dead she mourns him more so because hre life has come to a grinding halt .She has become very demanding of me and hre friends .I myself have a very moody and demanding daughter 16 yrs old .But more than anything i get upset when my mother insults me in public and am amazed at how little i feel for her . Please do reply as to how should i handle my mother.

  • Alan Kendal

    I believe that Complicated Grief can arise from other deep losses besides the death of someone close. Multiple losses within a short period can devastate a person eg sudden unemployment, bankruptcy, separation and divorce, loss of status / friends, sense of betrayal, loss of faith … all these can combine to become a kind of super-death. Although diagnosed with reactive and then later Major Depression Complicated Grief has been my constant demon for well over the last 3 years. Medication helps, but a genuine new life is needed … it’s just hard finding a place to start.

  • PEG

    I AM A OVER 50 WOMEN WHO HAS GIVEN UP ON HAVING A RELATIONSHIP. I WAS WITH MY HUSBAND OVER 20 YEARS THEN I LEFT RIGHT AFTER MY MOM DIED. A YEAR BEFORE HER, MY DAD DIED. SINCE THEN I LOST A BROTHER, MY ONLY DAUGHTER, AND LAST YEAR MY SISTER PLUS SEVERAL AUNTS AND UNCLES.THIS HAS ALL HAPPEN SINCE THE 90S. IVE BEEN IN A FEW RELATIONSHIPS BUT THEY ALL TURN OUT WRONG. THE LAST I FELL DEEPLY IN LOVE. THIS RELATIONSHIP STARTED WHEN MY DAUGHTER STARTED GETTING REAL SICK IN 2001 AND MY HOUSE FORECLOSED. HE AND I GOT TOGETHER BUT HE HAD SOME ISSUES WE STILL TALK BUT WE HAVE NOT BEEN TOGETHER IN 3 YEARS, HE LIVES IN ANOTHER STATE. I WENT INTO A MAJOR DEPRESSION AFTER HE AND I SPLIT. I CANT SEEM TO FIND ANYONE WHO INTERESTS ME. I AM VERY LONELY . I ALSO HAVE OTHER KIDS AND MY YOUNGEST WHO IS 18 SUFFERS FROM THE SAME GENETIC ILLNESS THAT KILLED MY DAUGHTER IN 2002. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST I HAVE MS BUT I CAN STILL MOVE AROUND. I TALK ABOUT MY LOSSES BUT PEOPLE SEEM TO TUNE ME OUT. I USE TO BE THE LIFE OF THE PARTY. ANY SUGGESTIONS?

  • Leesa

    I didn’t know what forum to go in, but I have been grieving for the loss of my mother for 7 years, she died of cancer at 56. I watched her take her last breath. I don’t know if I should have, I had a nervous breakdown after that, then got help in a hospital. I have been okay. I don’t cry everyday, but i feel like I only exist, I don’t know if this is depression or what, but I have 3 wonderful kids, one boy who graduated high school last year and is going to college and a 14 yr old who is going to high school, and my little girl who is 7, I work from home, but not a lot because work is slow, and she doesn’t have any friends in this neighborhood, she has been bored everyday since school let out, and I need help and motivation from others. I don’t have any friends here. I am married, but he has his own work and friends, and I’m falling deeper into dispair, because my little girl and I don’t have anything to do, she goes to the pool once in awhile, but we live in florida and it’s so hot that we can’t take the summer months outside, and don’t have money to visit my family up north. i need prayers for my children and i to find peace and prayer for me to come up with something to do fun for my daughter. my other children have friends and my stepmother takes my 14yr old every summer to new york and to the beach and never takes my youngest daughter, and she’s a wonderful girl. i feel she is left out. i need prayer for depression and i can’t help it, because i’m blessed with wonderful kids and a husband and father. i haven’t been the same since i lost my mom. i want to be a good mom to my kids, please pray for us, there is so much more to the story, i don’t have time to write it all, but it falls down to motivation, i need it bad and i pray for it every day. i want to do so much in life, but i can’t make myself do it. please pray for us i would appreciate it so much. we are catholic, so i feel like a sinner in the worst way. i haven’t been to church lately, and i have to go. anyway thank you for listening and i hope i can help someone else in return.
    God Bless you all
    Leesa

  • sympathy

    It was completely random for me to run across this page, but this is great and I just bookmarked it so I really hope you keep updating! Thanks!!

  • Major Depressive Disorder

    Major depression is also known as depression, anxiety, clinical depression, severe depression, unipolar depression or unipolar disorder. It is a mental disorder characterized by a bad mood embracing low self esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in normally pleasurable activities. The diagnosis of depression is based on the experiences of patients self reported behaviors reported by parents or friends and a mental status examination.
    http://www.disorderscentral.com/major-depressive-disorder.html

  • http://respondingtoDiana--longmarriage. Kim

    I was in a relationship with my husband from age 19 until 37. It has been 3.5 years since our separation and subsequent divorce, and YES, I still cry. I could not have continued with him the way he was treating me, but I found out later he had a girlfriend while still @ home with me and our children. He was the love of my life and I was totally devastated when I knew we couldn’t reconcile. I never wanted him back once I figured out he had a girlfriend, but nonetheless, I was devastated and AM still horribly saddened. I have a boyfriend who is great and I care about, but I don’t think I will ever love anyone like I loved my husband. It’s hard. Not sure if it’s normal, but apparently some of us have a hard time getting over divorce.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment peter

    My name is peter I found a great spell caster online who helped me to get back my girlfrinad who has left me for pass two years. We where married for 5years without a child and my friend introduce me to a real spell caster named dr ogboni which i never believe it exist but after the meeting of this spell caster my problem where solved and now i am with my husband who left me for pass two years my life and my entire family are now happy now i have two kids with the help of this great spell caster. Thanks to dr ogboni and i will advice anyone in need of help to contact him with this email ogbonispelitemple@hotmail.com

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