“Learning To Live With Grief Brain”
Losing my son has changed the way I think.
I don’t just mean my perspective on life has changed, I mean the actual cognitive process of thinking, “grief brain”.
Grief brain is what happens to your exhausted mind after the loss of a loved one.
I’m not sure how much scientific evidence there is to back it up, but I’ve read plenty of anecdotal accounts to know that it’s a thing.
For me, grief brain settled in after the death of my son.
At first, I thought my memory lapses and my inattentiveness could be chalked up to the exhaustion of experiencing his death.
It seemed normal that I would have a tricky time remembering when to eat, drink and keep track of appointments.
The death of my son, a hospital environment and planning a funeral was new for me.
Anyone in my situation would feel confused.
But, as time passed, I noticed that the fog didn’t seem to be lifting from my brain.
So, I figured it must be exhaustion.
After several months, and plenty of sleep, I came to wonder if this was something more.
This cloudy, scattered brain seemed to be a symptom of my grief.
I began to do some research.
If this was a thing that grievers experienced, then surely there were others who could relate.
My assumptions were right.
There were people out there who wrote about their experience with grief brain.
They described exactly what I was feeling–a brain so overcome with emotion that there was little space left to function in the everyday world.
There it was. It wasn’t great news, but it was validating.
It reminded me of the way I felt when I first read another woman’s story about the loss of her child.
I no longer felt broken and damaged.
Instead, I felt a sense of comfort from knowing I wasn’t alone in this.
It’s been over eight years since my son died and my grief brain seems like it’s here to stay, although I have noticed my short term memory improve.
Maybe time will help some more of the fog to lift, but in the meantime, I still struggle with my long-term memory which makes me really sad.
I often find myself forgetting the words for everyday items.
It’s incredibly frustrating.
Living with grief brain is not impossible, but it requires some extra thought.
(A cruel irony for a brain that is already overworked.)
Here are some of the things I do to help me function with my poor, overworked grief brain:
Let others know what’s going on.
By letting them know you’re aware of the changes in your thinking and memory, it can allow them to be open to helping you when they see you struggle.
Write things down.
Use your phone, a notebook, or sticky notes.
For me, I feel really sad that I struggle to remember some memories of Jack but I am very grateful that photos help to trigger those memories. This is why I have included a memory book in our memory boxes, I would advise any newly bereaved parent to write down all their memories of their child. After Jack died, my mum gave me the most precious gift for Mothers Day, she has written a book with all her memories and stories of Jack and I in it. That book brings me so much comfort and so many smiles. In those darkest hours, it it also reminds me that I was a good mum and I gave jack so many good times.
In our world, we’ve become accustomed to saving time and doing multiple tasks at once.
In my experience with grief brain, I find more consistent success when I focus on one task at a time.
If you know a task is going to require greater concentration, try to be mindful of the environment you’re working in.
Your brain is tired. Treat it well. Take time to rest and nourish your brain. For me, a massage and sleep were my ways to rest.
Be gentle with yourself.
Remember that you are constantly doing the incredibly important work of loving and grieving your child.
Sometimes that at job leaves little room for anything else.
Oddly enough, grief brain makes sense to me.
Losing my son sent my heart into overdrive leaving it battered and tired forever,
Why would my brain fare any differently?
Maybe you could share your comments and advice on the post to help those who need it xx
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