Bipolar Disorder And Grief

//Bipolar Disorder And Grief

Managing your bipolar disorder is difficult enough when you are only dealing with daily stress. Add the loss of a loved one, and you can soon find your emotions spiraling out of control.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, family member or pet. The loss of a loved one can be especially devastating if you are bipolar.

The June 2014 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders published a study that found stressful or negative events often triggered bipolar episodes. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experience severe mood swings, only that you need to take extra precautions.

Stages of Grief with Bipolar Disorder

Grief typically has five stages;

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

While not everyone goes through these stages in the same order or experiences all of them, this is the “textbook” definition of the grieving process.

For those of us with bipolar, any of these stages can trigger a return of our symptoms.

Severe depression and irritability can occur, and getting these emotions under control is difficult. Irrational thoughts and mania can also be a serious problem when you are grieving.

For some people, any of the “5 grief stages” can trigger suicidal thoughts. If this happens, even once, speak to a mental health care professional or your support team immediately.

The death of anyone in your life is difficult, and there is nothing to be ashamed of if you need help coping. This can’t be emphasized enough.1


Funerals and Mania

Are your symptoms of mania returning with a vengeance as the funeral draws nearer?

If so, you are not alone. This is a particularly stressful time. You have to “appear” in public, and even worse, try and comfort others. Not to mention, in some cases you have to “dress and act appropriately”. This alone, is stressful even if you aren’t already dealing with a mood disorder.

“Funeral mania” doesn’t always occur when a loved one passes, it can start when you know that the end is inevitably coming.

Watching and waiting for those final moments can send you into bipolar mania. Suddenly, you can’t sleep. Sorting your loved one’s belongings takes priority over a good night’s rest, and even after they’re gone you’re still finding things that need to be taken care of.

Sleep is the last thing on your mind, and you refuse to give yourself time to cry. This is what “funeral mania” is when you’re bipolar.

Then the reality sits in.

The person or pet is gone, you’re alone. Everything is sorted, cleaned and boxed, leaving you with nothing to do.

One minute you’re okay, and then you find yourself crying uncontrollably. It is a cycle that comes without warning, and seems to have no end. This is referred to as “bipolar waves”, and it is something that you need to prepare yourself for.

The bouts of feeling okay and then breaking down in tears is normal, even for people without a mood disorder. If you are bipolar, then it is typically more severe and can trigger other symptoms associated with the disorder.

This is when you need to fall back on your support group and coping mechanisms. While none of these tools can fix everything, it can help you get your bipolar episodes under control.


Medications “Deadening” Feelings of Grief?

The medications that are prescribed to you are important. They are a necessary part of your treatment plan.

However, lithium and other bipolar medications can leave you feeling empty inside when all you want to do is cry.

Bipolar mediations are designed to stabilize our moods. That’s why we take them. Unfortunately, they can also dampen our responses to feelings of grief and despair.

That’s when you need to watch out for those “tidal waves”.

Crying, feeling alone and depressed are part of the normal grieving process. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen at the “right” times when you’re on bipolar medications.

This doesn’t mean that the treatment plan that you are on is wrong or that you need to change medications. Just be prepared.

While the Academy of Psychiatrists states that “funeral mania” is rare, it does happen and the subsequent consequences can be devastating.

Tips for Managing Bipolar and Grief

You can manage your bipolar symptoms and grieve over your loss. It’s not easy, but there are things that can help.

  • Join a grief support group
  • Face your feelings of loss head on
  • Take care of your needs, emotionally and physically
  • Talk to a mental health professional

Keep a journal of your feelings, no matter what they are. Sometimes, just putting your feelings down on paper can help you get over the rough patches.

Learning to cope with the grief in your life is difficult, but if you don’t reach that balance the results can be devastating.


It Will Get Better

It can seem like you are alone when you are grieving, especially if you are bipolar. Depression and mania are supposed to be your primary concerns, but all you can do is think about your loss.

This isn’t always helpful in your treatment plan.

What does help is knowing that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Do what feels natural to you. Lean on your support group. Talk to health care professionals before you feel the sadness wearing you down. Also know, that there is no set timeline for grieving.2

Take care of your bipolar disorder and recognize your grief. Eventually, in time, it will get better.




2019-04-06T13:17:59+00:00September 22nd, 2017|Categories: Living with Bipolar Disorder|7 Comments


  1. Bina October 2, 2017 at 2:23 am - Reply

    In 2015 I lost my cat of 20 yrs & the following month almost to the day I lost my darling dog of 19 yrs.
    I didn’t cry, I didn’t feel anything (I was not medicated at this stage).
    My grief that I anticipated didn’t happen. I felt terrible guilt – why couldn’t I grieve???
    My younger dog & I went on for a few months until I realised we were both depressed. So I got us a puppy, she was such a delight but I still didn’t feel anything.
    My depression became worse & I ended up having a breakdown. Every day I was battling that voice telling me to do everyone a favour! I started seeing a Psychiatrist that convinced me to go into hospital.

    Now when I look back I can see my slow decent into suicidal depression.
    Now when I look back I can cry for my babies that had been with me for half my life.
    I can now give my 2 dogs love, friends & family too, I was dead inside for too long NOT understanding I was actually really unwell.

  2. Kathy Gaskins November 17, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

    I am the one grieving now. My father, her grandfather passes 01/11. He was her male role model, idol. She loved her Papa with all that she had. In 01/14 my 32 yr. old daughter took an overdose of her lithium. All that she had in the bottle. She was found a few days bf dying, taken to the hospital, placed on dyaliais and ventilated. After multiple tests on her brain doctors told us that from the stem up no cells were alive and active. She was all but brain dead. Up on removing the ventilator she passed within 24 hrs.
    I would like advice bot only for my grief but also in telling her story in hopes of saving others. Please contact me.

    • Erica January 6, 2018 at 10:09 am - Reply

      I’m so sorry that this happened to her and you. 🙁 my thoughts are with you.

  3. cliff November 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    my wife is bipolar and we just lost her/our nephew in a motor bike accident its been 10 weeks now and things are getting slightly better its been so hard at times i just wanted to say how much this page has helped me to help my wife to deal with a sudden loss
    Thank you all Cliff

  4. Jai Sim December 14, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

    im seventeen diagnosed with bipolar. 5 weeks ago my father passed away in his sleep suddenly from cardiac arrest. He had no previous heart problems and this death sucked. A few days later it was my birthday which was the hardest day ever. Struggling to find ways to manage my school schedule, taking care of my grieving mother, and myself as well. I know things will get better but i have been rapid cycling. The best thing to do is fill your heart with things you love to do. Ive been hanging out with my friends every day and cuddling my mom and eating a lot. This is a wake up call that life moves on. Every day you are going to wake up and the date is going to change whether you like it or not. He will never see you graduate or fall in love or have a child or get married or find a job you love. But his legacy and imprint he left on your heart will stay with you forever. Thats something you can bring to your children and your future husband. You are always a piece of what you lost whether you like it or not.

    • Jai Sim December 14, 2017 at 10:15 am - Reply

      i also should mention i am unmedicated bipolar adhd anxious depressed teenager who takes all AP classes and is extremely stressed . I promise life will move on and you will gain happiness

  5. Shelley January 15, 2018 at 1:42 am - Reply

    I am 31yrs with no children. I lost my mum 2 years ago after the loss of my nana the year before. I have no remaining family apart from my siblings and everyone around me makes me feel like it’s me who is the problem. I should be over it apparently……. I’m bitter and angry all the time.
    My whole world fell apart and I don’t know what ok is anymore.

Leave A Comment

Weight gain after bipolar medication? Read The Bipolar Diet & balance your moods and weight gain.Read The Bipolar Diet & balance your moods and weight gain.