Grief Fog is Real - no, you're not losing your mind.
And it doesn't matter who or what you're grieving.
Grief fog is very, very real, and it can be from any type of loss.
At one point in my grief “journey” after my husband died, I thought I was losing my mind. Then I heard other widows talk about “widow brain”, and other grievers talking about brain fog. I realized it might be a thing!
As is the case with many of the ideas I wrote about after my husband passed away and during my cancer diagnosis, I’ve found out that grief fog/grief brain is something that has been studied! This Thanatology masters sure is coming in handy in my business
So if you’ve had a loss, or know someone who has, and feel like you’re/they’re losing your mind, take a gander! You are not alone.
According to a 2019 study, traumatic grief affects your brain the same way a brain injury does (Schneck et al.).
Some of the symptoms include:
A lack of concentration
This traumatic grief can be from losing a partner, a spouse, a parent, a pet, a child, a stepchild, a grandparent, a career, a relationship, anything that is a traumatic loss. It’s not a competition, or as one of my fellow students called it the “grief olympics”. It all sucks, and it all makes our brains go haywire.
What happens is, our brains can't handle the amount of information being thrown at it. We’re spending all of our energy (literally burning glucose and other things our brain needs to function) and time trying to avoid thinking about the grief and the loss. Because of this, our brains don't have the ability to take in what's going on.
We're confused. We are anxious. We are forgetful. All of the things that make us feel like we are in a fog.
So how do we work through this?
One, read “Onion of Grief” and know that it is a process and you are not alone.
Two, use writing, photography, or art to help rewire your brain. Whether it is writing everything that happened down, so you don’t forget any detail, or taking photos of things around you that remind you of the life you love, those actions give you a safe space for your brain to rewire after trauma. You’ll find that the fog starts to lift as your brain processes things in the background.
If you know or love someone going through grief fog, just know, it is completely normal. You’re going to have some times where you are just confused, anxious, forgetful, etc. Don't push yourself to get through that grief quickly, because, ironically, it will make that grief fog,
You are not alone in your fog. Be kind to yourself along the way.