Quote: Grief vs Depression

Dead Flowers

There are three things people tend to confuse: depression, grief, and sadness. Grief is explicitly reactive. If you have a loss and you feel incredibly unhappy, and then, six months later, you are still deeply sad but you are functioning, it’s probably grief, and it will ultimately resolve itself in some manner. If you experience a catastrophic loss, and you feel terrible, and six months later you can barely function at all, then it’s probably a depression that was caused by the catastrophic circumstances. The trajectory tells us a lot.  People think of depression as being just sadness. It’s much, much too much sadness, much too much grief at much too slight a cause.

Andrew Solomon  Depression: The Secret We All Share

My recent post on depression and how the word is misunderstood prompted me to plan a post on the types of depression. But I realized that first I needed to look at the difference between grief and depression, two seemingly similar but distinctly different concepts.

After some research, I decided that Grief Compass gave a very good explanation of the difference between grief and depression. Here it is.

Clinical Indications of Typical Grief

  • May have tendency to isolate, but generally maintains emotional connection with others
  • Hope and belief that the grief will end (or get better) someday
  • Maintains overall feelings of self-worth
  • Experiences positive feelings and memories along with painful ones
  • Guilt, if present, is focused on “letting down” the deceased person in some way
  • Loss of pleasure is related to longing for the deceased loved one
  • Suicidal feelings are more related to longing for reunion with the deceased
  • May be capable of being consoled by friends, family, music, literature, etc.

Clinical Indicators of Major Depression

  • Extremely “self-focused”; feels like an outcast or alienated from friends and loved ones
  • Sense of hopelessness, believes that the depression will never end
  • Experiences low self-esteem and self-loathing
  • Experiences few if any positive feelings or memories
  • Guilt surrounds feelings of being worthless or useless to others (not related to the loss)
  • Pervasive anhedonia [inability to feel pleasure]
  • Chronic thoughts of not deserving, or not wanting to live [planning harmful action against yourself]
  • Often inconsolable

I hope this proves helpful.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I always felt like there was a difference between grief and depression. My husband passed away almost 3 years ago. I still feel grief, but I’m not depressed. I have said to people that I have felt sad but not depressed. If they haven’t had a similar loss I’m not sure they understand what I mean. This article explains it perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought so, too. I have learned so much, from so many other bloggers, since starting this blog. And Andrew Solomon is one of my favourite speakers on depression, loss, life, etc. I am so glad that you shared your thoughts on grief.

      Liked by 1 person

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