Let me start this post by saying that I am not a psychiatrist or mental health professional. The opinions that I express in this post are strictly my own personal experience with dealing with depression for many years. I wanted to try and show the similarities and differences of the depression symptoms that I had after the death of Kaitlyn and my "normal" depression symptoms and how they became entangled.
I have often heard parents who have lost a child talk about how they feel as if they are going crazy after the death of their child. The symptoms that many parents have described are more symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) rather than Depression, although some of the symptoms of the two disorders do overlap. Many parents describe the following experiences after the death of their child: insomnia, irritability, flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, extreme sadness, loss of interest in pleasurable events, intrusive thoughts, inability to concentrate just to name a few. All of these symptoms are very normal responses for someone who has just experienced a traumatic loss. One of the most traumatic experiences you can have in life is having to face the death of your child. Unfortunately, I have found in talking with other parents and in my own grief journey that many of these symptoms can last a year or more but they do seem to lose their intensity over time.
The most severe symptom of Depression is suicidal thoughts. After the death of Kaitlyn, I must admit that I struggled intensely with suicidal thoughts, but they were two conflicting types of thoughts that became entangled. One was the overwhelming desire to be with my daughter, to know where she was, to know that she was okay, to wish I could trade places with her. I have talked with a number of parents who had many of the same feelings, but never really considered ending their life. These almost seem to be normal feelings of parents who have lost a child, but if you do have thoughts and begin to think of ways of ending your life please, please, please, reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911, contact your doctor, call the EAP if your employer has one. PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP !!!!
For me personally, my depression as tended to center around my social anxiety and perfectionism. I am an extreme introvert and have been overwhelming shy since I was very young. All of my life I have never had more than a few close friends that I felt I could trust and that I could latch on to for security. I had and still have an extremely hard time making friends. I have a fear of trying new things or meeting new people. I guess my fear is they will not like me or make fun of me, or if it is trying something new that I will fail at it. When one of these things happens the emotions of embarrassment or failure that I have is extremely intense to the point were my mind automatically turns to thoughts of ending my life instead of being able to handle the situation in a more positive way. As a result of these feelings I have been in and out of therapy and on and off many different medications.
Kaitlyn and I had a very close relationship. She was my rock, and in some ways my crutch. She was the one I latched on to since I did not have any friends. She is the one that would get me to do things and go places. She is the one that would make me test the levels of my comfort zone. When she died, I not only lost my child who I loved so much, I lost the person that I leaned on rightly or wrongly for support. My grief over losing her became entangled with a number of feelings that made my depression spiral out of control. One of the thoughts that I was plagued with was the fact that I was not a good enough father. If I had been a better father, I could have some how prevented this from happening. I felt like I was a failure as a husband because there was nothing I could do to take the pain away from my wife over Kaitlyn's death. I felt that there were no other options for me other than to end my life. Thankfully, my wife reached out for me and contacted a therapist for me, as I was unable to do it myself. I am so glad she did, even though at the time I did not want to go.
I can say now that I am ever grateful for her doing that for me, and she probably saved my life. My therapist helped me get back on the right medications and challenged me to begin to take steps that helped me begin to get better over time. It has been a lot of hard work, but I do think I have made considerable progress. I have developed a closer relationship with my wife and son. I am still on medications and in therapy and working hard each day to become the best version of myself to honor the memory of my daughter.
I know that this was a darker post, but I wanted to share my experience to offer hope to parents out there that might be going through similar circumstances. Please don't give up there is light at the end of the darkness. In my next post I will try to talk about somethings that I did that helped me on my grief journey.