grief is NOT a mental disease


Jesus Wept

John 11:35 (NIV)

Grief is about to officially become a mental disease according to the American Psychiatric Association.

In diagnosing someone with grief, the doctors will overlook the CAUSE of the grief and just determine if a spouse has grief symptoms then be able to give a grieving widow drugs.


The CAUSE of grief is a one-time event – the death of a spouse.  One can work through the resulting grief without drugs.

I see at least 3 dangers associated with the APA’s thinking.

Danger #1

I once heard or read somewhere (and I really wish I knew where) that putting a surviving spouse on anti-depressants the first year is not a good idea.  Some grieving spouses are put on anti-depressants immediately after the funeral.  This way they can get though the first year feeling good.

After the first year doctors then wean the spouse off the medicine and guess what?  They are left to deal with holidays, anniversary, special occasions and day to day living for the FIRST time.

All anti-depressants do in 99% of the cases is set the surviving spouse back a year in their grief journey.

It is possible to get through grief without antidepressants.

I am living proof.

Danger # 2

With the APA considering two weeks to be long enough to conclude grieving is that corporate America will follow suit and establish bereavement leaves based on the two-week guideline.  That means once a spouse returns after two-weeks off, she will have to be functioning at the level she was before her husband unexpectedly passed away.  Yeah, right!

Her world has drastically changed and she is in the process of establishing a new normal for herself and possibly young children. It will take time to get back up to speed at work.

Danger # 3

If a widow has not concluded her grief in two weeks, then she will be diagnosed with a “mental illness” and have that on her medical record.  We all know there is a “stigma” associated with “mental illness.” Now that will follow her around for the rest of her life.  If for some reason a widow has to carry her own health insurance, depression will have to be listed as something she was treated for or a box checked that she was diagnosed with a “mental illness.”  This could cause her to pay more for insurance or be denied all together.


In order to work through it  the widow must decide:

  • I WANT to get through the grief.
  • I DO NOT like the pain associated with grief.
  • I am WILLING to do the tough work involved in getting through my grief journey.

That is the key factor – the widow has to decide if she wants to get through this pain or go around with a “woe is me” attitude and mascara running down her face the rest of her life.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of widows who fall into the latter category.

What Grief Is

Working through grief is an accomplishment to be proud of.  The surviving widow does not run, she does not hide, she has guts to tackle tough challenges head-on and come through her journey a better, stronger person.

After all grief is life’s ultimate self-improvement course – not a mental disease.

Coming tomorrow – “Making the Choice to Heal”