When Grief Looks and Feels Like Depression

When my cat died, I thought I was depressed

Christine Schoenwald
3 min readJul 16, 2020


Yoshi in a box photo by the author

A few weeks ago, I had to put my 18-year-old cat, Yoshi, to sleep. Since then, I’ve been in mourning. All my coping mechanisms have disappeared, and the slightest thing — a picture, a smell, or even a clicking sound, will be a painful reminder he’s no longer here.

I’m not holding it together well.

Grief has taken over my brain function as a conductor on a train, and at any minute, it may drive me over the edge of a mountain.

My mental health is suffering — my thinking isn’t rational, my emotions erratic, and when I try to imagine a world without Yoshi, I don’t want to be part of it.

I cry the kind of tears which start of nowhere and escalate until I’m screaming at an unseen enemy.

My body feels like it’s burning from the inside out and trying to purge itself of sadness.

Some days I feel nothing and have no energy.

I’m sad and filled with hopelessness, but it’s not clinical depression. I’m grieving, and it’s a disturbing kind of grief known as Complicated Grief (CG) or Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder. But knowing it’s not technically depression doesn’t help me feel better.

Grief and depression could pass for twins.

I have trouble getting out of bed and doing regular activities; I feel hopeless and don’t want to see anyone — all common signs of depression.

However, depression is a reaction to a chemical imbalance in the brain and is a serious mood. Grief is a direct response to a loss and the penetrating pain that comes with it.

I may feel sad for a long time, but the intensity of my feelings should lessen over time.

There’s no judgment regarding depression as opposed to grief; it’s helpful to know the differences to get the right kind of care.

If I were clinically depressed, it’d be something I’d manage — either with therapy, medication, or both, for the rest of my life. It’s a small comfort knowing I won’t feel this destroyed forever.



Christine Schoenwald

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Next Avenue, Business Insider, and Your Tango Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

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