I've counseled many sad and blue writers during my nursing career, and as a writer, I've been there myself. Since writing a novel is essentially creating and breathing life into one or more characters, it's only natural to mourn their absence when they are no longer a part of your routine.
The stages and treatment of grief apply to any loss whether it's real or perceived, but writers have unique ways to cope with post novel-writing depression that are outlined as follows:
~ Denial and Isolation ~
Editing is necessary for a clean and acceptable manuscript, but when the editing goes on for many months or years, it could be a sign of denial. A novel never perfected retains its life within the author, so you might not want to let it go. Prolonged editing can also become very unhealthy when the author finds himself in a self-imposed isolation. Spending unlimited time with a written creation will isolate a writer from family and friends who are a vital support system.
~ Anger ~
Since writers can't blame or be angry at their characters for causing a disruption in their lives, they may take frustrations out on those close to them. Artists, especially writers are very good at expressing anger through passive aggressive behavior like, blowing people off and screening phone calls. While the post novel anger in itself rarely becomes physical, it can take its toll in relationships which can lead to physical conflicts.
~ Doubt and Anxiety ~
Doubt usually takes place between finishing all the edits and the first query draft. This is probably the first time a writer will be exposing this particular piece of work. Request for critiques from family, friends and peers will increase because the writer needs to get approval after approval to be able to move on to the next step. Sometimes a writer will even become anxious enough to pay for several critique services in search of the approval they need. A writer who can't move on from doubt will become stagnant.
~ Depression ~
The most common symptom of depression in the writer is writer's block. Having trouble moving on to next project only intensifies with each attempt to write. Unchecked, the writers block moves beyond writing and the writer may feel like a failure. Some people who love to write give it up entirely or for long periods of time because writing has lost its joy.
~ Acceptance ~
This is the final stage of grief. Writers will simply accept that they have done their best work. They will put the manuscript up for grabs and start the process of getting published. While it is possible to have some lingering melancholy, there is an overall feeling of excitement to finally be moving on.
~ How Can A Writer Deal With Grief? ~
The most recommended method of recovery from the blues is to take good care of yourself physically and spiritually. Grief will be lifted, but it takes time and you'll want to be healthy enough for your next project.
Step away from the desk, take long warm showers, and treat yourself to meal with company that's not your computer monitor. Get outside and feel the weather, watch the world go by, hear the sounds of life and smell the air even if it’s coming up from a subway vent. Before you know it, you'll be refreshed and in the springtime of a new project.
However, if you find your grief becoming stronger each day instead of less, start by taking to your doctor. Increasing sadness and a loss of energy may be a symptom of a physical ailment or clinical depression. Again, take care of yourself.
Grief is a natural process that will run its course. Being able to grow and move forward is the green light for writers suffering the post novel blues.