How to Help When More Than Your Help Is Needed

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The loss of a marriage and the transitions that follow will bring out several strong emotions in your friend. As the person who is confided in, vented to and leaned on, however, it can be difficult to know if the reaction is grief or a more serious depression.

Everyone’s moods are on a continuum to some degree. We all have some good days and some bad days. If your friend experiences a period of pronounced sadness for more than two weeks, however, consider helping them find additional support.

Recognizing Real Life Depression

Some specific signs of what depression looks like in real life include:

  • Home is a mess. Laundry isn’t finished, dishes are piled and mail is unopened.
  • Makes excuses for not getting together with friends.
  • Lets physical appearance go. Gains or loses weight without realizing it.
  • Loses sense of humor and rarely laughs.
  • Takes forever to do tasks that used to be done quickly.
  • Loses track of appointments, kids or more.
  • Can’t get out of bed in the morning.
  • Has constant fear that something horrible is about to happen.
  • Speaks torrent of negativity.
  • Often reports, “I just don’t feel like myself.”

What You Can Do

If you believe your friend may need to get professional help, encourage him or her to seek a counselor who can provide a safe and objective place to explore the complexities of the situation and the underlying causes of depression. Counseling will provide a reliable, consistent, uninterrupted time for your friend to be heard.  You can also:

  • Help your friend recognize the close circle of family and friends who value and love him or her.
  • Encourage your friend to stay active and not isolate.
  • Provide tangible help such as researching therapists, grocery shopping or cleaning the house.

It may sound simple, but it’s true: Your deep engagement of relationship with your friend will in and of itself promote healing. As you recognize what depression looks like and encourage your friend toward help, you are instilling the hope that emotional well being can be restored with a community of support from both professionals and trusted family and friends.

Nancy Schornack
NANCY SCHORNACK, LMHC focuses her clinical work toward women and marriages and holds her practice at Family Legacy in Johnston, Iowa. She has extensive experience in the areas of shame and vulnerability, anxiety, depression, abuse recovery, marriage counseling and divorce recovery. Nancy has been counseling for nearly 30 years and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Iowa. She is also a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator and Consultant and has received extensive training to deliver the model based on the work of Dr. Brené Brown. Phone: 515-727-1338 Email:

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