How to Deal with Depression Caused by Grief and Loss

Question: Since my mother passed away two years ago, my 76-year-old father has been actively involved in grassroots activities to help him cope with his grief. But I think he has yet to fully overcome the loss. About three months ago, he suddenly went from being active to listless. Now, he often sleeps for long hours and skips meals. He has lost a lot of weight. How can my wife and I help him to regain his vigour?

When someone you care about is grieving after a loss and feeling depressed, it can be hard to know what to say or do to support this person. This is because most people are afraid to say or do the wrong thing, which may make the grieving person feel worse. It is important for you and your wife to remember that you do not need to have all the right answers or advice. The most important thing to offer your father is your presence and support in practical ways to improve his mental health.

It can be difficult for a grieving person to ask for help due to the fear of burdening others or getting too much attention. It can also be very energy-consuming for your father to ask for help every time he needs something. You can, therefore, make it easier for him by consistently offering specific suggestions, for example, propose doing an activity with him that he previously enjoyed doing, or help him out with routine errands such as laundry or cooking.

Related: Coping with Bereavement for Better Mental Wellness

Remember that there is no fixed timeline for grieving, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people may eventually get used to life without the deceased person, but their feelings of having lost an important part of themselves may never go away entirely. It is important to let the grieving person express their grief in their own way and at their own pace.

Ask your father how he would like to be supported, and if he is willing to share more. Certain times of the year may be especially hard for a grieving person (such as anniversaries, festive occasions, and birthdays). Try to offer more support on these occasions and let your father know that you are there for him.

If he shows signs of depression despite the family and social support and activities, and the symptoms worsen with time, encourage him to seek professional help to learn how to deal with depression and improve his mental health.

Dr Sharon Lu Huixian
Senior Clinical Psychologist
Institute Of Mental Health

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