I recently spoke with D. Keith Cobb MD, an internal medicine physician in practice near Savannah, GA, author of the new book, The Grief Survival Handbook: A Guide from Heartache to Healing, which I recently reviewed for Blogcritics. Here's some of our conversation.
Why did you write The Grief Survival Handbook?
Soon after I first started my practice, I met a couple who had hours before received a phone call that their 20-year-old son was killed in a car accident. Understandably, they were so distraught they were unable to think straight, much less attempt to go to the local funeral home to plan a funeral. As I sat in the exam room and grieved with them, I thought about my own grandparents who had experienced the same tragedy decades ago, and the struggle they went through when they lost their son. Although I was able to provide medication that day to somewhat soothe their pain and anxiety, I thought that my grandparents would be much better equipped to counsel and grieve with this couple. I subsequently asked my grandparents (as well as other patients over the next few months and years) for more details on how they survived their loss. I was eventually able to collect helpful stories and do more research into the grief process that led to the publishing of The Grief Survival Handbook. I use it as a resource for patients and their families.
You probably encounter death all too frequently, as an internal medicine physician. Are you more philosophical about death now, having been exposed to it so much? If so, how?
It makes me more appreciative of life and aware of the uncertainty of tomorrow. The death of a patient, family member, or friend is always a poignant reminder that we should make the most of each day to be the best we can be — both personally and professionally — in order to do the most good and have a positive effect on those in our sphere of influence.
One would expect a person grieving the loss of a partner or a close family member to feel depressed. What's the difference between that kind of depression and clinical depression? Should they be treated the same way?