Grief versus Depression: Recognizing Symptoms and Knowing When to Seek Help

Grief is a natural response to loss. Most people associate grief with death of someone in their lives, however it can also occur due to other major losses (e.g., job, relationship, physical disability). While there is no rule for how long the suffering should last, most individuals improve within six months after the loss. Unfortunately, some people will continue experiencing troublesome feelings which could trigger a major depressive disorder (MDD). It is important, therefore, to understand the difference between grief and depression, including how they might be similar, and know when to seek help.



  • Intense sadness
  • Reduced sleep, appetite, low energy levels
  • Changes in memory
  • Reduced interest in life
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability/anger

Key Differences:


  • Intense sadness, emptiness
  • Difficulty accepting the loss, guilt
  • Waves of emotions that decrease in intensity/frequency over time
  • Periods of hope, comfort, and even humor
  • Thoughts focused on the deceased or loss
  • Generally intact self-esteem
  • Thoughts of “uniting” with the deceased


  • Persistent sadness, hopelessness, emptiness
  • Feelings of guilt unrelated to loss
  • Upsetting emotions are constant/unchanging
  • Inability to feel positive emotions
  • Self-critical, hopeless about life in general
  • Preoccupied with feelings of worthlessness or shame
  • Thoughts of suicide to end pain, despair

Grief symptoms get better without treatment while depressive symptoms persist, affecting the person’s ability to function in daily activities.

If you are struggling adjusting after a loss or are depressed, it is best to seek professional help. Here at NRS|LS, we offer counseling specific for your needs, including biofeedback, and will teach you skills to help you recover, regain control over your life, and move forward in your daily functioning.

If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms following a major loss, please call our office for a consultation.

Basia Andrejko-Gworek, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Permit# TP #213-03