Are You Grieving or Depressed? Here’s How to Tell the Difference.


Every day, our staff meets with families in Milwaukee, New Berlin, and Brookfield who have lost a friend or family member. Some arrive at Krause Funeral Homes tired but at peace, having had time to say goodbye and prepare for their loved one’s death. Others have had their world turned upside down and are in a state of shock. We hear statements like,

“I feel so worn out; it took everything I had to get out of bed this morning.”

“I feel numb, like I’m sleepwalking through life.”

“I feel angry, sad, or irritable – or a combination of all three – almost all the time.”

In most cases, this intense emotional pain is attributed to grief, as a person works through a difficult or even traumatic loss. Those who are grieving often experience fatigue, notice a change in their appetite, have disrupted sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. Yet these characteristics also describe someone who is clinically depressed. How, then, can you tell a difference?

Here’s the key: Over time, someone who is grieving still connects with others, completes their day-to-day responsibilities, and occasionally feels like their “normal” self in spite of a lingering sadness. When family and friends are present, they are able to talk about what they’re going through and gain a sense of optimism and hope for the future. Painful emotions do resurface from time to time, especially on big days like their loved one’s birthday and holidays. But overall, there’s a positive outlook moving forward.

However, when feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and an inability to cope with daily life and its stressors persist after weeks and months, depression may responsible. Think of it this way: Grief often occurs in waves, but depression and its accompanying feeling of aloneness are persistent and all encompassing.

It is important to understand the difference in order to get needed support or treatment. Do you wonder whether you or someone you love is grieving or depressed? A doctor or therapist will make the distinction and offer guidance on the road to healing.

Remember, you can always turn to us for advice and for help. We’ve been serving families in the Milwaukee area for more than 80 years now and have many connections and numerous resources available, including contact information for certified therapists and details about grief support groups in Southeastern Wisconsin. We even have a grief therapy dog at Krause Funeral Homes, who brings comfort and a smile to all who meet him.

We understand that the days and months following a death are filled with complicated emotions. Life is never the same after losing someone close to you. But a “new normal” is possible, especially with the support of those around you. If you ever need a helping hand or listening ear, you can count on us to be there for you.

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