Depression Due to Death of a Loved One: Symptoms and Treatment

“Depression is one of the most complex concepts in the field of mental health. Not only does it appear with a great variety of forms and symptoms, but also, as it happens in practically all mental disorders, there is not a single cause that triggers it.”

However, among all the possible experiences capable of favoring the appearance of depressive symptoms, it is known that the death of a loved one is one of the most frequent. It is a relative frequency, since most people who have to face grief due to a loss of this type do not develop depression; however, in some cases psychological help is necessary.

In this article we will see what is the basic information about depression due to the death of a loved one, and what can be done to face this in the best possible way from the treatment of mental health professionals.

What is depression for the death of a loved one?

Let’s start with the basics: is this a different kind of depression? Keep in mind that the idea itself that there are several types of depression is somewhat controversial. In practice, these classifications are used to better describe each of the cases that are being worked on, but that does not mean that there are different mental alterations that, beyond some common characteristics, have little to do with each other.

In the case we are dealing with, depression due to the death of a loved one can not be considered to be an entity of our own as a mental alteration, but rather a specification of what has been one of the main triggers that explains how it has arisen.

Thus, bereavement depression can be experienced in as many different ways as there are different ways of living depression in general. Despite this, there are a number of general aspects that are usually fulfilled. Let’s see what they are.


One of the great myths about depression is that it consists essentially of a sadness so intense that it causes a lot of psychological pain, enough to significantly damage life or even encourage the appearance of suicide ideas.

Although there are cases in which people with depression feel that way, there are many others who live it in a totally different way and who do not feel exactly sad. The most characteristic of depression, whether due to the death of a family member or friend who has been much loved or for other reasons, is the inability to feel joy, excitement or in some cases even pleasure, and the lack of initiative and motivation to do the most basic activities.

The inability to feel pleasure, or anhedonia, appears automatically, and has nothing to do with our way of thinking about life or existence itself: it is not necessary to be extremely cynical or critical of society and the world to feel it, since its nature is irrational, beyond the limits of reason and language.

The apathy, or lack of initiative, also arises in a similar way. It does not appear because intellectually we do not find reasons why we feel motivated by something, but it expresses itself as a symptom without more, without the need that we have had to reach any conclusion.


The treatment of depression by death of a loved one must always be carried out by mental health professionals, who in turn must also make a diagnosis in a personalized way. That we feel very bad after the death of a friend or relative does not mean that we can take for granted that we have depression; we must wait for what the specialists tell us to take our case. That said, it is also good to know that in some cases it will be recommended to combine psychotherapy with pharmacological treatment, and in others not.

The drugs relieve symptoms, but a few shots do not make the discomfort go away. Psychological therapy is one that can help us better to accept the death of that person and to want to integrate again into a world in which we can either see it or interact with it. Thus, the main objective of therapy is acceptance.

How to achieve it? It is not a battle we can do alone, and it is not something that depends only on the therapist. You have to be guided by the professional who carries out the psychotherapy, and work together. For example, part of these tasks have to do with cognitive restructuring: the revision of our deepest beliefs to discard those that do not adapt to reality and harm us, to replace them with others.

Other tasks will also be indicated that have the main objective of not letting us fall into passivity and a lifestyle away from all activity. This is the work of behavioral activation, widely used in the treatment of depression.

On the other hand, the role of the family and the patient’s close environment is also fundamental. The mourning for death of a person who has been loved is much more bearable is counted on the support of other people with whom there is a personal and intimate link.