Is Grieving Acknowledged?

This morning, on Your Caregiving Journey, Anna Stookey joined me for a discussion about grieving and depression. We discussed this question currently being debated by health care professionals: Should the definition of depression including grieving? You can listen to our show via the player below. (And, the inspiration for our show was this New York Times article, “Grief Could Join List of Disorders.”)

Our conversation about the relationship between grief and depression morphed into a greater discussion about grieving and caregiving. When your caree receives a diagnosis, you both could begin a grieving process. But, how often do you receive information for and care about your grief? (After our show, I attended a Twitter chat about the National Alzheimer’s Action Plan. I read during the chat that less than half of family caregivers and carees receive counseling after a diagnosis. I can’t confirm this stat but thought it important to share with you.)

I’d love to know your thoughts. How has grief been apart of your experience? And, do you feel you’ve received an acknowledgment of your grief from health care professionals? Share your thoughts in our comment section, below.

Program Notes: Anna will join me in April; we’ll talk about how a mindset we create can lead to depression. Our next show airs on Saturday (3/17); Holly, who cares for her husband, will join me for Table Talk. You can listen here.

Reminder: We’re raising money to help BreeAnna! Your donation will help her build a ramp and buy medical supplies. You can read more and donate here.

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5 Comments on "Is Grieving Acknowledged?"

Mar 13, 2012

I do not know the “legality” of including grief in depression diagnosis or not. But can definitely affirm that grief is there both for the patient and the caregiver. As medical health professionals, they are scientific folks and rely on facts. In that light, they should rely on this simple fact that grief exists both for patient and caregiver when a traumatic diagnosis is delivered. Medicine should be dealing with this “grief” aspect up-front and not as an after thought.

Mar 13, 2012

Grief has been one of the central issues of my caregiving experience. But it is the most difficult to process and deal with. Many losses… on both sides. Some small, some significant. And the slow unfolding of others. At times, it’s overwhelming. No wonder we push it away.

Mar 14, 2012

I do not listen to as many of the blog talk radio shows anymore, because I am no longer a family caregiver. I did listen to this broadcast, however. I thought you and Anna did a good job discussing this topic.

I agree that grieving begins and exists with caregiving or any other significant loss. In caregiving I believe both the caregiver and caree are grieving. My husband passed away Jan 2, 2011. Part of my grieving now is still tied in with the caregiving days. Although it maybe would be a greater shock to lose a spouse suddenly when he or she is apparently healthy, there is a certain sadness is having the last memories of one’s loved one be the declines in his health.

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Mar 16, 2012

I agree wholeheartedly with what Dr. Allen Frances said in the Times article: “What I worry about most is that the revisions will medicalize normality and that millions of people will get psychiatric labels unnecessarily.”

Not only labels, but meds that might be prescribed incorrectly because they fit into a predetermined box.

On the other hand, I love the “replacement therapy” talked about on the show.

My partner is dealing with her grief head-on at this point, after receiving her most recent diagnosis in December. She is dealing with grief and anger surrounding treatment during her hospitalization in 1982, which involved drugs that may have contributed to her current condition 30 years later. It’s a complicated issue for which we don’t have any definitive answers. She does, however, have definitive beliefs concerning the matter, which result in very real and very strong emotions.

My grief as a caregiver is different. I also distinguish between grief and depression as I feel them. I can point clearly to the losses that cause me grief — the things I can no longer share with my partner, the constraints on my own life, the loss of old reference points from which I feel completely uprooted. Little by little I do my own “replacement therapy” as I find new outlets and ways to cope.

Depression for me means that I am in a fog and can’t point clearly to anything except that I am a lump. What keeps me going is knowing that the state I am in will come to an end. Basically, it is blind faith based on past experience.

The only acknowledgement of grief that I have received was from my now-former therapist — former because I had been maxed out at the clinic. That’s another thing to consider. There’s what looks good on paper, and there’s reality. Before my partner had been maxed out, her treatment plan had been changed not because her condition had changed, but because her prior treatment plan could not be completed within her therapist’s allowed timeframe.

In other words, a system supposedly designed to “help” the patient became one — faced with budget cuts — whose first priority was its own bottom line instead.

Other health professionals with whom we have dealt completely ignore the grief aspect. However, neither my partner nor I bring it up.

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Mar 22, 2012

I am no longer a caregiver, but I was one for 17 years. Grief is always present. The grief at seeing your loved one go into dementia is intense. What helped me, was when I read an article and it talked about this and said how this type of grief is not acknowledged like it should be. I looked at myself and had a name for what I was feeling, “grief”. To me the knowledge of what it was helped, I wasn’t being weak, I wasn’t losing it, I was experiencing grief. As for health professionals, I never had mention so much as mention it to me, but in the last years of my mother’s illness I had a very sympathetic doctor taking care of her.