The fourth stage of grief, according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is depression. This is true, devastating grieving. This is when the reality of the death has set in and feelings of sadness and helplessness take over. This stage is when our attention moves fully into the present. Empty feelings come to the surface, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined.
This depressive stage feels as if it will last forever, but try to remember that it will not. It's important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness, but is instead an 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 as quickly as possible. Often the people around you may want to get you out of your depression. But Kübler-Ross feels that if grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way. She would recommend that you allow yourself to fully experience it, allowing the sadness and emptiness to cleanse you and help you explore your loss in its entirety; it will leave when it has served its purpose in your loss. The only way out is through…
As you grow stronger, it may return from time to time, but that is how grief works.
However, if the normal depression that comes with grief turns into ongoing clinical depression, where life has lost meaning, you are unable to accomplish the basic chores of daily living, such as caring for your personal hygiene, you are sleeping too much or not enough, or are having suicidal thoughts, you need to seek grief counseling immediately with a mental health professional who can assess your depression and take quick action to help you stay safe and heal from your loss.
Make self-preservation your number one priority.