October is Depression Awareness Month — a time to recognize a condition that affects nearly 10 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, an estimated eight to 10 million people experience the loss of a loved one. In addition to death, people experience the loss of a job, a child leaving home or other major life changes such as a divorce.
Each of us experiences grief through a range of emotions such as sadness, confusion and anger, and the grief process is unique for each person. But sometimes intense feelings of hopelessness and guilt do not go away and are accompanied by physical symptoms like loss of appetite, sleeping problems and trouble concentrating on daily tasks.
When the emotions of grief persist for a prolonged period and affect all aspects of a person’s life, this is known as “complicated grief.” If untreated, complicated grief can lead to health conditions like depression, substance abuse and heart disease. People who are at the highest risk for depression are those with a past history of the condition or those who lack a strong support system.
Whether it’s spending time with family and friends, joining a local grief recovery program or seeking treatment from a professional, no one should experience grief alone. If you know someone who is grieving, let the person know you are there for them. Simply showing your support can make all the difference.
Sandra Karem, LCSW
Bereavement Coordinator, Crossroads Hospice, Tucker