Grief & Mental Health

By: Stuart Porter, NP


Grief is something everybody will go through at one point in time. When we lose someone, we grieve that loss. There are healthy ways to handle grief just as there are unhealthy ways to handle grief. If handled unhealthily, grief can lead to serious depression. 

Five Stages of Grief 

When going through the grieving process, there are usually 5 stages someone goes through.  

  1. Denial — this is the first step we experience when losing someone or something. Our brain isn’t ready to accept that loss, so it uses denial as a coping mechanism. Many people who experience denial will isolate or feel numb to the situation.  
  2. Anger — this is the second stage of grief. This anger can be directed at many things, such as the lost loved one, a higher power, a doctor, friends and family, or others. Our brain may rationally know that it is not their fault, but that doesn’t stop the emotion from being there. 
  3. Bargaining — during this third stage, our brain will try to come up with a bargain or if only statements; these if only statements may include “if only I knew sooner” or “if only I didn’t tell them to go driving that day.” The bargaining aspect may include trying to make a deal with a higher power for a second chance. People often experience guilt with this stage, wishing they could’ve done something better. 
  4. Depression — at this fourth stage, our brain is finally moving on to the present. People may begin to feel the effects of the loss such as loneliness or as though life is meaningless. This depression is not a sign of mental illness, but rather a sign that you are experiencing a depressing situation. 
  5. Acceptance — this final stage is not the same thing as being okay with what has happened. Instead, this stage is about accepting the reality of what has happened.  

The five stages of grief do not have a set timeline. Some people may experience one stage for weeks, while others may only experience it for a few days. These stages are important steps to help us learn to live again after a tragic loss. 

Adjustment Disorder 

When experiencing a stressful change, some people may experience adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder may also be called situational depression. 

Symptoms of adjustment disorder are similar to those of clinical depression. Some of these symptoms include feeling sad, lack of interest, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, appetite changes, feelings of being overwhelmed, and suicidal thoughts or behavior. 

Adjustment disorder is not the same as clinical depression. One difference is that adjustment disorder is only temporary; symptoms of the disorder typically go away within 6 months.  

Adjustment disorder is also not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress disorder is typically caused by a very traumatic event such as a violent death or life-threats to one’s self. It is important to note that PTSD also may not present itself until a longer period has passed, whereas adjustment disorder is typically presented within 3 months. PTSD also has longer lasting effects than adjustment disorder. 

Coping with Adjustment Disorder 

Having to deal with any life-changing experience, especially one that causes adjustment disorder, can be stressful and confusing. Here are a few coping mechanisms that may help: 

  • Having a support system  
  • Getting help from a mental health professional  
  • Medication 
  • Avoiding stress when possible 

These are only the basic coping options for dealing with adjustment disorder. Creating a treatment plan can be very effective to helping one through their rough time. 

Risk of Depression 

While experiencing symptoms of depression is normal when grieving, there comes a point where one risks developing clinical depression. There are many ways to prevent this from happening. 

If someone isolates instead of getting help or support, this is the biggest factor in leading to depression. It is very important to reach out and get help. 

The main methods of preventing adjustment disorder turning into clinical depression is by seeking help. Mental health professionals are the best option for this. Therapy comes in many forms and there are many medications that can help prevent someone from falling into depression. 

Grief is a hard thing for anyone to handle. If you or someone you love is experiencing grief, contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to talk about your options.  

Request Appointment

*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.