Senior Living: About grief and depression

December 30, 2010|By Nancy Turney

Q. My husband died a year ago and I find myself crying a lot lately. I think it is grief, but my kids are worried that I might be depressed. What is the difference?
Although a grieving person may experience a number of depressive symptoms such as frequent crying and profound sadness, grief is a natural and healthy response to bereavement and other major losses.
There is a difference, however, between a normal grief reaction and one that is disabling or unrelenting. While there’s no set timetable for grieving, if it doesn’t let up over time or extinguishes all signs of joy — laughing at a good joke, brightening in response to a hug, appreciating a beautiful sunset — it may be depression.
Depression red flags include:
Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes.
Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities or leave home).
Weight loss; loss of appetite.
Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness).
Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing).
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs.
Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts.


Older adults don't always fit the typical picture of depression. Many depressed seniors don’t claim to feel sad at all. They may complain, instead, of low motivation, a lack of energy or physical problems. In fact, physical complaints, such as arthritis pain or headaches that have gotten worse, are often the predominant symptom of depression in the elderly.
If you think you do fall into the depressed category, first try the following remedies and if they don’t give you relief, seek a medical professional’s help:

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