Readers letter: coping with grief and depression

Readers letter: coping with grief and depression

Dr Eddie Murphy is a psychologist and an expert on Operation Fransformation. He lives and works in his native Portarlington.

Dear Eddie; ‘I used to struggle with both anxiety and depression. When I was a teenager I was a ‘goody two shoes’, I always tried to please everyone else, friends and family.

I always was anxious, like I had a permanent knot in my stomach. I worried about everything. It sucked the joy out of life. I wanted to be anywhere except in my own head.

From about age 15, for 3 years, I self-harmed, often triggered by family rows.

As bizarre as it sounds, it gave me some relief. It was never about killing myself, it was about putting the pain on the outside. A visual representation of how I felt. My sister challenged me on this and supported me greatly, she brought me to the GP who diagnosed depression. I figure I have a broken brain. I was placed on medications. I got well. That was some years ago.

However I have taken a bit of a nosedive. My father died almost a year ago. We were close and I miss him dearly. My mood has dropped. I put on a brave face but I'm heartbroken.

I don’t feel depressed or anxious, but broken again. I have not returned to self-harming. Any help would be appreciated.’ Thanks Alex.

Dr. Eddie responds;

Thanks for contacting me, firstly my condolences to you Alex on the death of your dear father. Grief and depression share a deep sense of loss, and pain, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, loneliness and yearning.

With your previous history of depression a good assessment is essential to distinguish between grief and clinical depression. Be a key part of that, you know yourself best.

The inner world of the bereaved person differs significantly from that of one experiencing depression.

Everyone grieves differently. It is a personal journey of the heart.

It can be physically painful. There is a profound emptiness. From the outside, people who are grieving seem okay; they put up a brave face and carry on. For many, that’s what they need to do.

In the grip of grief, people sometimes hold on to the pain, because they are afraid that if they let it go, they would be letting go of their loved one.

There are no experts on grieving, but experience proves that ignoring your pain will make it worse in the long run; it is okay to feel vulnerable, sad, frightened and lonely; there is no timeframe for grieving; you don’t need to protect your family by putting on a brave face,  showing your true feelings helps them and you.

The only way to get through grief is to go all the way in and through to the other side. Find someone to support you. Open up.

Grief can remain unresolved when there is an intense yearning for the deceased; when there are intrusive thoughts or images of the loved one long after they have gone; when things that remind the person of their loved one are avoided.

The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but it need not be the core of your existence; it shouldn’t stop you from living your life.

What would your Dad want? He would be compassionate, he would want you to reconnect with the world again, to be your real self.