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Julie Morrell, MFT


Category Archives: Depression

Going through Grief & Loss?

When people are going through the upheaval of grieving the loss of a loved one, they have many lows of emotional reactions.

Missing a loved one is especially hard during the holidays.

Everyone’s response to loss is different and will NOT be the way you grieve, because grief is as unique as each individual.

So with that said, here are explanations of the 5 reactions people have and they are not on a linear timeline. NOT everyone goes through all of them in the prescribed order.

I am writing about this because if we live long enough, all of us will go through grieving the loss of someone who we love deeply.

Our grief is as individual as our lives.

The five stages, 1) Denial & shock, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance

Knowing what the reactions are help frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.

Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. I’ve written an expanded explanation of each of these reactions to grief below.

These reactions to grief are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.

Below are explanations of each stage or reaction to loss and grief.

DENIAL: Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss.

In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on.

We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

ANGER: Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits.

It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this? Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything.

Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died. Suddenly you have a structure – – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.

BARGAINING: Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently.

We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

DEPRESSION: After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of.

The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.

ACCEPTANCE:: Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing.

In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one.

We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time. (The Stages of Grief were written by Grief experts: Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler)

David had mentioned he wished they had changed the word “stages” to “reactions” . Because the stages are not neatly packaged. David Kessler can be found on Facebook as he continues his work in the area of grief. He has also written a new book this year. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief which came out November 5th 2019.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,
Julie Morrell, MFT

My thoughts and words on the tragedy in Las Vegas

I am heartbroken for the people who were there at the concert in Las Vegas & had to go through something as horrific as the mass shooting on Sunday night. My thoughts & prayers today are for the people impacted by this tragedy. No one should ever have to experience trauma like this. #LasVegas

It saddens me to see how many young people were victims of the massacre & these were young people just expecting to have a fun, a relaxed time in Vegas. No one should ever lose their life like this. Not ever! We need to find a solution to prevent this from happening again.

Every one of their lives touches another life. Every tragedy has a ripple effect into other lives. Every heartbreak, every loss has an impact on several hundred hearts. Several hundred families. A mass shooting like what happened in Las Vegas yesterday effects all of us, but scars & traumatizes the people who were there, and we cannot forget the first responders. They see the ugliest part of an attack. And they work so hard to save a life. They live to save lives.

Every death touches the first responders & has an impact on them too. It creates a lot of emotion & anger in them as well. So my encouragement to you today is to reach out ask someone how they are doing.

Tragedy’s like this have a more severe impact on those who have already been traumatized. Trauma is cumulative. We need to be extra loving & caring today. I know you know that, but just had to say it. I am sure some of you know someone who has a broken heart today. Let’s all reach out & be extra caring today. #VegasStrong

Julie Morrell, MFT

WAYS YOU Can TREAT Depression And some Depression Facts

It’s normal to be sad from to time to time, but if you feel unmotivated or hopeless, are experiencing sleep deprivation or changes in appetite, or are having recurrent thoughts of death, you may be developing some form of depression, or symptoms of it. If so, you are not alone; nearly 18 million American adults suffer from a depressive illness. Depression can devastate all areas of your everyday life, including work, school, family relationships and friendships. You may experience a loss of interest in the activities you once enjoyed like going out to dinner, playing with your children or participating in extracurricular activities.

When you are depressed, even basic daily activities seem bothersome or too hard. Depression treatment can be possible via professionals in the mental health field.The physiological and psychological effects of depression are caused by the way the brain processes certain chemicals. Some types of depression, such as bipolar disorder, tend to run in families. However, having a family member with a severe form of depression does not necessarily mean you will develop it as well. On the other hand, depression can and does strike those in families with no previous history of it

A variety of outside factors, including a major illness or loss of a loved one, difficult relationships or living situations, financial pressures, or job stress can trigger depression. Attitudinal proclivities such as low self esteem, chronic pessimism and anxiety also can contribute to depression. Depression can even result from poor diet, food allergies, insomnia, or lack of exercise.

Many people cannot accept that they may suffer from depression. Most try to shake off the depression symptoms and tend to not seek treatment because they are ashamed. Denial only makes depression worse.

Take one small step to be happy again: Seek treatment from a therapist before depression really hurts you and your family.
Common Depression Types
*Major depression can dramatically disrupt your ability to work, eat, sleep, study and maintain healthy relationships. People who are severally depressed tend to not want to participate in the pleasurable activities they once enjoyed.
*Dysthymia is a non-disabling, chronic depression that keeps one from functioning well or from feeling good. It has many of the same symptoms as major depression, but may not be as severe.
*Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressive mood disorder that scientists have determined is related to seasonal variations of light and is most prevalent in the winter months. Those with SAD often benefit from increased exposure to artificial light or sunlight.
*Bipolar Disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness and is not as common as other forms of depression. It is characterized by either dramatic or gradually cycling mood changes. Those with bipolar disorder experience severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). While in the depressed phase, one can have any or all of the symptoms of major depression. The manic phase affects judgment, rational thinking, and acceptable social behavior.
*Postpartum Depression is thought to be triggered by hormonal shifts and/or lifestyle changes, and can occur at any time after giving birth. While some level of tiredness, trouble concentrating, and anxiety is to be expected after giving birth, postpartum depression lasts longer than two weeks.
But what if you’ve tied the knot and pre-marital counseling is no longer an option? If you are already married and either never received pre-marital counseling or feel that your marriage is still in need of professional guidance, then we encourage you to read the following information and ask yourself these questions:

  • Signs and symptoms of clinical depression
  • Loss of energy and fatigue
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Feeling of hopelessness and unworthiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Overwhelming feeling of sadness and grief
  • Increased irritability and anger
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

Help For Depression – Things You Can Do

Get Help: Your first step should be to see your primary care physician for a depression screening test and to rule out other possible physical problems. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions designed to assess if you are clinically depressed. If it is determined that you do have clinical depression, your doctor will prescribe anti-depressant medication.
You also should ask your doctor for a referral or authorization to see a licensed Therapist. According to recent studies, a combination of therapy and medication is the most effective way to combat depression.

Keep Trying: Sometimes, you’ll have to try two or three medications–and perhaps see more than one therapist–over a period of several months to find the combination that will work best for you. The important thing is that you keep trying.

Take Care of Yourself: It’s essential to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Excessive consumption of sugar, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco all impact your brain’s ability to work properly. It’s also important to take care of your emotional and spiritual well-being. Learn to identify and properly express your feelings so that you don’t become emotionally overwhelmed. Friends and family can provide a helpful support system.

Develop a Purpose: Cultivate positive values and formulate a purpose in life that will guide you in making decisions and provide you with a sense of direction. Having attainable goals and knowing what steps to take to achieve them will enable you to see your life as having meaning.

Helpful resources:

National Institute of Health: Depression California Department of Mental Health Depression Hotline (630)

Partial Content Credit:M.K.Doc Downing, Ph.D., MSW, LMFT