Grief, Depression & Comfort Eating: A Common Combination

Woman struggling with grief and depression

“Grief is a sign that you have loved and loved well” ~ Unknown Author

Love is universal in the way it is shared. We all love. We do not have to understand another language to understand love. It is common among all human beings’ belief systems, feelings, thoughts, and religions.

Grief is Emotional

Grief can bring all types of reactions. A person can respond to a traumatic event in various ways such as anxiety focused, eating disordered, avoidant, or depressed way. We do not know how a person will react in a loss situation until it happens [1].

Coping methods are a part of how an individual manages loss. Coping mechanisms can be positive or negative. These behaviors can also help protect the person from the pain of grief and loss by acting as a numbing agent.

It’s a Club You Don’t Want to Be In, But You Are Glad You Are Not Alone

Grief is hard to do, but with others, it does not have to be [2]. Friends and family still care about you, but until someone has gone through a similar loss, it is difficult for others to understand.

Find a support group, or connect with friends or family that you can talk with to process your grief. Remember that others have gotten through the grief of losing a spouse, partner, sister, brother, parent and other friends and family.

It is something we all go through, which is painful, but all experience it. Find others you can connect with, and share your thoughts and feelings.

It can be a comfort to turn to foods that you shared with your loved one. Foods that you prepared on holidays, special occasions, or just enjoyed together.

Food can stir up treasured memories, or help you feel emotions that you have been avoiding. Try to save these for occasions that honor your loved one’s memory. Use it as a way to cherish the times that you shared together and not as a way to process your grief.

Grief Equals Guilt

Guilt can lead toward depression over the things you did or did not do while your loved one was alive. The phone calls never made, or the fights that were never forgiven.

It can be easy to recall the negatives, and harder to remember the positives. These negative guilt producing emotions will pass over time, and the treasured memories will return.

Find a New Normal

A “new normal,” it is challenging to find a new way of being after a loss. It can be difficult to find happiness after a loved one is gone.

Teenage girl exercisingIt takes time and acceptance for an individual to allow themselves to be happy, to laugh, and to see the world as good again. These are normal feelings and reactions.

You will find a new normal after the loss of your loved one. What are new interests, hobbies, or activities that you can begin? What you did before your loved one’s death, may not be the same now, and that is okay.

Try something new, or engage in something you previously enjoyed. It is about taking it slow and getting back to taking care of yourself.

Depression: I Can’t Stop The Constant Crying

It is normal at first to be unable to stop crying. Some people cry in certain places, in their car, when they are home alone, at night when their family has gone to bed.

It is alright. It is your brain and body processing the pain and sadness of the loss. Feeling overly emotional will pass. It is a part of the grief process as well.

Approximately 1 in 5 individuals will develop major depression after the loss of a loved one [3].

Symptoms of depression can include:

  1. constant thoughts of feeling worthless or hopeless
  2. thoughts of death or suicide
  3. inability to perform daily activities
  4. intense guilt over things done or not done
  5. delusions of thought
  6. hallucinations
  7. slower body responses and reactions
  8. weight loss
  9. weight gain
  10. insomnia
  11. poor hygiene [3]

Coping With Loss

Coping with the loss of a loved one will be painful. It can be scary to let in the emotions and pain of your loss. Connect with a support group, therapist, or other family members to talk about your loss.

Sleeping womanTry not to expect, or let others tell you what to expect about what you are feeling. Grief has no expectations.

Be patient with the process of grief. Accepting that each person is working on accepting their own emotions, pain, and in their own time is part of the journey to healing after a loss.

Try to keep on a regular schedule. Do not make any significant life changes within the first year after the loss of your loved one. Your brain, body, and emotions continue to heal during the first year.

Work on keeping a normalized sleep and wake routine. Choose healthy and nutritious foods for a meal plan. Work on an exercise and body movement program. All of these will help keep you feeling more ‘normal’ and keep you active.

Practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion during the grieving process. It can be easy to stay stuck in the guilt cycle of things you did not say or forgive your loved one before they passed on.

Learning to let go of the past can help you move on in your life and accept that death and dying are a regular part of the life cycle.

Take a break from your grief. Go out to dinner with a friend. Go for a walk, a movie, or find a new activity. Get involved in a community group or even volunteer your time.

Find something that gets you engaged in something outside of yourself. It will help you remember that the world is still moving.

When you are going through the grieving process, remember that depression and comfort eating are normal parts of the process. The emotions you are feeling will pass over time, and you will find a new normal as you work through your grief journey.


Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is an Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


References:

[1] Albus, C. (2017, March 08). Grief and Eating Disorder Treatment by Chelsea Albus, MSW, LMSW. Retrieved February 05, 2018, from http://www.castlewoodtc.com/2017/03/grief-eating-disorder-treatment/
[2] “Good Grief” – Jeana Cost. (n.d.). Retrieved February 05, 2018, from https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/blog/august-2017/grief-and-losing-a-loved-one-jeana-cost
[3] Symptoms of major depression and complicated grief. (n.d.). Retrieved February 05, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/end-of-life-care/grief-and-loss/depression-and-complicated-grief.html


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on March 22, 2018.

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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