Q. My husband of 23 years, the love of my life, my soul mate, died July 9, 1998. I remember the Doctor in the emergency room telling me he had died. I remember going with my children into the room where he had died to say good-bye to him. I remember being very calm at the hospital. After that I don’t remember too much at all. The funeral, the graveside service, the get together afterwards, all a blur. It took me 8 months, 3 hospital visits, many different medications and 3 rounds of ECT to get me to a point where I could finally be around other people and get myself back to work. I was treated for major depression and today, nearly 10 years after his death I am still taking several antidepressants. I see my psychiatrist about every 3-4 weeks if I’m feeling okay, more if I’m not feeling okay. I see my psychologist usually once a week, sometimes I can go for two weeks but not very often. I have been doing this ever since my husband died. My hospital visits became necessary because I wanted to end my life. I still think about suicide a lot, it’s a real struggle for me, which is part of the reason for my medication and my talk therapy. For the first 4 or 5 years my son and my daughter supported the fact that I was taking medication and going for counseling. However, now its a different story. For the past 4 years it has become something we can no longer discuss without having a serious argument. They love me I know but they just cannot understand why I still need help. They have told me over and over again that no one grieves for 10 years. They want me to move on with my life, to enter into a new relationship, to find some peace and maybe even find some happiness. I want those things too, but honestly I doubt it will ever happen for me. I have talked to both my Doctors about this and they tell me everyone grieves differently. I tried to explain this to my children but all they say is that both my Doctors are taking advantage of me. They say that neither of my Doctors really care about me, that the only reason they are still seeing me is for the money. I don’t believe that for a minute. I know for a fact that on numerous occasions they have actually saved my life. If they had not been willing to talk to me, regardless of the time of day, I know I would not be here today. Now for my question. Is it unheard of for a person to be depressed for this amount of time? I hope you will be able to shed some light on this for me. Thank you!
A. You should love your husband forever. Your love should not lessen but remain a pure and true link between the both of you. In this way, he lives on within you.
Having said this, it is not normal for you to be so depressed after such a long period of time. If you were my client, I would look for the reasons why you are depressed and the one reason that I would rule out is the death of your husband.
If things go as nature planned, every child will experience the death of their parents and still life goes on. Many parents will experience the death of a child and their lives go on. Many spouses experience the death of their husband or wife.
It is a mistake, a terrible mistake, to assume or to think for even a moment that “you loved your husband” more than they loved their son or daughter or mother or father or husband or wife.
It is also a mistake to think that you are weaker than they are. You are no weaker, you are just less well equipped to deal with your loss and there is a reason for this. We need to find this reason and make the necessary corrections. And it is most definitely… correctable.
You appreciate your doctors and that is good. They are very well intended but the question becomes are they “very good” or even good enough to help you with this problem. They might be great with other problems but perhaps not with yours. This is a very definite possibility.
How long should you be in therapy…as long as it takes…perhaps as little as a few weeks or as much as weekly for the rest of your life. Here is the caveat, the test that should be applied. You should be making steady progress, a little better after any time period of measurement you wish to apply. How much better isn’t the issue because every person has different problems and different degrees of those problems. But over time, week by week, month by month, year by year, better and better and better.
Please let me know how you are doing and do write back if you want further clarification of my answer.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Apr 2008
Randle, K. (2008). Normal to be Depressed 10 Years After Losing Husband?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/04/13/normal-to-still-be-depressed-after-10-years-of-losing-husband/