What is "Grief Brain" and is it really a thing?

What is "Grief Brain" and is it really a thing?

If you have suffered a loss, do you have moments of lack of memory, problems concentrating, and overall simple cognitive issues?  If so...don't run to the nearest doctor thinking you've gone crazy, my guess is that you are suffering from "grief brain".   Yes, that really is a thing and it happens to most everyone. 

Grief and loss do a lot to our minds (and bodies). Grief can cause our memories to change, our behavior become a little bit more sporadic with bursts of anger, sadness, denial, and happiness. Grief changes our sleep patterns and our eating habits too.  The biggest thing grief can do is change our cognitive thinking, which is what we call grief brain. Simple tasks of making a decision of what shoes to wear to paying a bill; tasks that were completely simple and needed no thinking before grief.  

Grief brain does not miraculously disappear either.  I am 17 years out from my son dying and I still get the grief fog associated with all that surrounded his death.  For example, I just did a podcast for the "Hot Widows Club Podcast" (which was awesome and I love those gals...you can listen by clicking on their name above); so when I do a podcast I usually try to tell my story from my first major death being my son, then go into my husband, then my brother, and if time allows the following deaths.  This time, since it was a "widows" podcast, I thought I would start with my husbands death.  Well, I completely messed up the date he was diagnosed saying it was 2006 when it was actually 2007, because my son died in 2006.  I blamed it on grief brain and the capacity my brain has for all the dates and how mushy it has become.  I had a system and my brain didn't like me changing up the system, so it told the correct story, just put in the dates wrong. That is what life is like when you lose someone, your system is changed forever, so it can't correctly do what it did before.  

Now most "professionals" say grief brain or commonly referred to "grief fog" goes away over time; I disagree with them.  How do they really know?  If they are in fact scientifically backed and can show me proof, I'd believe them, but I don't think that they can.  Now, I also may be wrong because when you do get to a certain point in your grief journey, it's kind of a standing joke amongst some of us widows to say we have grief brain (that's why we said or did the things we do). However, it's important to note that everyone's experience with grief is unique, and some individuals may experience more severe or prolonged cognitive impairments. 

So, how do we cope with the grief brain? It can be a complex process, as everyone's experience with grief is unique. However, below are a few strategies that can help individuals navigate this challenging time:

  1. Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally is crucial during the grieving process. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Take walks outside, fresh air is magical.

  2. Seek support: Surrounding yourself with a strong support system can make a significant difference in coping with grief brain. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can provide a listening ear and understanding.

  3. Allow yourself to grieve: It's important to give yourself permission to feel and express your emotions. Suppressing grief can intensify the cognitive challenges associated with grief brain. Allow yourself to cry, journal, or engage in other forms of emotional release. I suggest these newer "break" rooms where you just go and break a bunch of crap (it's all legal and they supply you with protective coverings). I want to do one, I think the emotional release could be amazing! 
  4. Establish a routine: Creating a daily routine can provide a sense of structure and stability during a time when everything may feel chaotic. This can help alleviate some of the cognitive challenges associated with grief brain.
  5. Seek professional help if needed: If you find that your grief brain symptoms are significantly impacting your daily life and functioning, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs. There is nothing wrong with chatting with your family doctor either and maybe trying medicine (I firmly believe that utilizing anxiety or cognitive medicine to help you through is okay.  It doesn't have to be a permanent fix, but maybe it can help you a little).

Remember, coping with grief brain takes time and patience. It's important to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to heal at your own pace.

I hope that this was helpful to the people that are newer grievers, but also seasoned grievers.  Let's be honest here, ALL GRIEF IS HARD and the journey is long and the new "normal" is strange and weird and NO ONE wants to be a part of it, but then it's life and we have no choice but to live through it and do the best we can each and every day.  If you are struggling, please reach out to someone or anyone and always remember that "WE ARE ALL BETTER TOGETHER".  


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