Updated: Jan 15
Please note: this blog is based on my opinion and experience as a grieving mother and is not meant to replace the recommendations of medical doctors or pharmacists. Prescription medications should only be taken under the advisement of a licensed medical professional.
As a grief guide who works with bereaved moms, it is common for me to be asked about anti-depressants and sleep aids. The fact is that many of the women I talk to report using some kind of prescription drug after losing a child.
In North America, we live in a pill-for-everything society. If we want to lose weight, there's a pill we can take. If we want help through menopause, there's a pill for that. If we want to get rid of a headache or soothe physical pain, there's a pill for that.
Yet, the stigma still exists around mental health and medications.
Sadly, this prevents many people from talking to their doctor about mental health and medication. Your doctor is the only one who can truly decide if medication would be helpful for you. Be aware - if you don't have that conversation, it may not be offered to you.
I've always said that there is no gold medal for "getting through" this without some kind of help.
Don't let the stigma stand in your way of asking for help, whether it is medication or therapy.
When should you talk to your doctor about anti-depressants?
You are having suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation
You literally cannot get out of bed
You cannot get back to any kind of 'normal routine' whether at work or at home
You have tried talking to a counsellor/therapist several times without improvement
You are experiencing drastic changes in your appetite or sleep habits
Your doctor may want to run some lab work and do a physical exam to rule out any medical issues that may be contributing to the way that you are feeling and to ensure that it is safe to prescribe medication.
Unfortunately, medication is not a 'quick fix'. It can take up to six weeks to feel any benefit from anti-depressants. This is why many doctors will only prescribe these meds in combination with therapy - something I completely agree with!
I know for myself, my mental health is directly tied to my sleep.
If I don't get enough sleep, my mental health is in the toilet. When I sleep better I am better able to cope, exercise, and do the other things that support my mental health, so I do take half of a sleeping pill each night.
Be aware that some sleeping pills and anti-depressants can become less effective over time, so it's best to add exercise, therapy, and healthy eating to the mix as well.
Other ways of coping with child loss that are not dependant on medication:
See a therapist and practice skills learned in therapy.
Learn how to better manage stress/grief. Physical activity can help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety. Turning to alcohol or recreational drugs for relief almost always makes matters worse.
Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthy food, and take time to relax. Drink lots of water to replace all those tears.
Reach out to support groups. This can be a very safe place to share your feelings with others who understand.
Plan ahead for special dates or anniversaries. Holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions can be painful. Find new ways to mark the day that provide you comfort and hope. You can check out a new resource I made specifically for dealing with ANY holiday or special day, like your child's anniversary: Holiday Survival Kit
There is no right or wrong answer here. We are all unique on this journey and therefore our needs are different. The best thing you can do is to have an honest conversation with your doctor and be open to any suggestions they may have.
You might also be interested in this blog about depression & grief.
Walking beside you,
Lisa K. Boehm
PS: If you are struggling with grief and child loss, you might be interested in my free 5-part video course that I created for moms. It addresses the most common questions and struggles that we have after losing a child. You can find it here.