I’ve been worried about my Mom more than usual these days. My dad died 18 months ago and she lives alone. They were married for 54 years and were rarely apart. I know she is still grieving, but I’m afraid it is more than that. How do I know if this is normal grief or depression? -Susan B.
My condolences on the loss of your father. I’m sure these are still difficult days for your family, especially if you are concerned about your mother too. Distinguishing between grief and depression can be challenging. Grieving follows no timetable, especially after 54 years of marriage. What might help you is to know that grief typically creates emotional ups and downs. It is often described as a rollercoaster. You think you are starting to emerge from your overwhelming sense of loss and sadness after you’ve had a few good days. You may even make it to a few good weeks. Then, without warning, the bad days return.
By contrast, when someone is suffering from clinical depression, the feelings of sadness and despair are constant. They don’t go away. It can interfere with a person’s ability to function. Common symptoms of depression to look for include:
- Listlessness and feelings of despair
- Preoccupation with dying
- Lack of energy and sluggish behavior
- Slowed speech
- Lack of appetite that may be accompanied by weight loss
If your mother is exhibiting one or more of the symptoms I outlined above, it is probably time to schedule a visit with her primary care physician. They will be able to make the determination and then decide how to best treat the condition if it is depression.