Grief 101: Is Grief the Same as Depression?

Our society seems to approach grief as though it were another name for depression. This probably stems from our association of negative emotions with depression. The conflation of the two together does both grief and depression a disservice because they are not the same.

Grief 101

Grief appears with loss, contains sadness associated with loss, and symptoms improve over time.

Depression can happen under any circumstance, is characterized by a “general sense of worthlessness, despair, …a lack of joy” and requires professional treatment.

Grief can move into depression territory when it becomes “complicated grief”—deep grief symptoms lasting a year of more that include feelings of hopelessness and “the desire to join the lost love one in death.” (

Just because you are grieving does not mean you are depressed or that you will become depressed. Negative emotions and emotional pain are an appropriate response to the pain of losing someone. However, if grief symptoms continue to worsen after six months, contact a therapist as this may indicate that your grief has become depression.

If you are concerned about whether your grief has the potential to lead into depression, contact your doctor and discuss having a depression screening.

Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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