"Grief Brain" What's Going On?



​After the death of a loved one, you may experience many changes in your mental and emotional state of mind. You may find yourself simply being in a daze, unable to focus, or going aimlessly in circles at times.

Completing routine or simple tasks may seem overwhelming, impossible or may take longer. The efficient way you juggled work and home prior to the
death of your loved one has suddenly disappeared, along with your good coping skills and ability to manage stress. You may have been excellent at
balancing your checkbook, but now you can’t add one plus one. You miss due dates on billsor discover you have paid a bill twice. Where once you could have done most things blindfolded or with a hand tied behind your back,
that is no longer true.

Enter: “Grief Brain.”
Now it seems you may go days without  doing a thing; even though you had multiple items you “planned” to do. You find yourself getting lost while driving to familiar places or arriving and wondering, “how did I get here?” You might forget appointments, scheduled activities, or familiar names. You may misplace your cell phone, wallet, glasses or keys more often, only to find items in unlikely places (aluminum foil in the refrigerator, TV remote in the kitchen
cupboard). Your judgment may seem clouded when making routine decisions.

These are symptoms of Grief Brain. Don’t worry, this is a natural part of grief. Your brain is on overload with thoughts of grief, sadness, loneliness and many other feelings. Grief Brain affects your memory, concentration, and cognition. Your brain is focused on the feelings and symptoms of grief which leaves little room for your everyday tasks.

It is important to be gentle and patient with yourself. It may be unreasonable or impossible to expect to complete your normal tasks as you did before your loved one died. Be mindful about setting reasonable expectations and build from there. When you can complete a task, give yourself a pat on the back
and recognize it as a step towards healing.

To help yourself focus, write things down on a legal pad or tablet and keep
it on a nearby table where you can readily refer to it. Sticky notes may not be
a helpful resource as they can lose their stickiness and get misplaced. Ask for help when needed. Get plenty of rest. Recite positive affirmations. Journaling
is an excellent form of therapy and will help release the many feelings you are

As you heal, you will find that your thinking is clearer/ sharper and your judgement becomes more reliable and you can accomplish more. It is important to take your time, baby steps, as they say. Slow down and take care of yourself.

Editor's Note: This article was inspired by a client who spoke of “Grief Brain” often and shared her grief journey with her bereavement group members.

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