7 ways to deal with changes in your grieving brain
A week after my mom died, my husband took me out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Usually, I order chili rellenos, but I told him that I was going to get something different this time.
Our food came, and we dug in. My husband asked me, “How are the chili rellenos?”
“I didn’t order chili rellenos,” I said as I lifted a bite of chili relleno to my mouth.
I looked at my fork, then at my husband. I didn’t remember ordering them even while I was eating them. That was the beginning of my long struggle with memory problems.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, you may find that your brain isn’t as reliable as it once was. You may feel like you’re “losing it.” You are not imagining this. Studies have found that grief can impact your brain in profound ways.
You may feel like you’re “losing it.” You are not imagining this.
During the grieving process, your brain gets overwhelmed by processing many feelings, such as sadness, anger, numbness, and loneliness, and it struggles to perform routine tasks related to concentrating, thinking, and remembering. Sometimes the grief is so deep and complex that it causes PTSD, depression, or anxiety. What’s happening?
Your body has reacted to your grief by releasing chemicals that mess with your limbic system and pre-frontal cortex. Those are the areas of your brain that regulate emotions, memory, learning, decision making, concentration, and organization. They get all jacked up by these chemicals, and you turn into a forgetful, foggy-headed mess.
This state of mind may last for days or weeks or months. In some people, it can last for years.
What do experts say you can do about this?
Seven Ways to Deal with Changes in Your Grieving Brain
1. Don’t fight the grief. Allow it to run its natural course but take care of yourself while that happens.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
3. Eat healthy foods.
4. Exercise. Even going for a short walk can clear your mind.
5. Talk to people.
6. Find healthy outlets to channel your grief, such as hobbies or reading.
7. Rely on tools. I use the notes app and the alarm on my phone to help me remember things I need to do. Sticky notes work well, too.
If you find you’re losing the battle to cope with it, seek help.
Don't numb yourself with drugs or alcohol or even food. Avoid overworking.
If you find you’re losing the battle to cope with it, seek help. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the guidance of a therapist or a support group.