Coping with the Fog of Grief
You forgot to pay your water bill, lost your car keys (again!), and now the toast is burnt. When mourning the loss of a loved one, your mind may wander or shut down in ways that you can’t anticipate. Your day to day life gets turned upside down.
It may seem like you’ll never navigate your way out of the haze. Memory loss and the inability to concentrate are a byproduct of grief and you may feel like you’ll experience it forever. The good news is that you won’t, and there are ways to cope with the fog of grief.
There’s a lot going on in your brain chemically when you experience a significant loss.
Various parts of your brain functioning get disrupted. The pituitary gland (stress hormones), amygdala (sleep, behavior, mood), and hippocampus (memory, stress regulation) all become imbalanced. Elevated stress hormones, triggered by your brain’s reaction to the trauma of your loss, begin to tax your immune system. At the same time, your emotions begin to run amok and your quality of sleep and rest is disrupted. It’s no wonder that you can’t find your car keys or remember why you walked into your living room.
It gets even harder when duty calls.
The fog of grief can be particularly hard to endure when you are parenting little ones or must go back to work before you feel truly ready. You may fear that you will make mistakes that will cost you your job or role. Perhaps the day to day mistakes that you’re making have led you to question your mental health or competence. It may feel as if you will never recover, but keep in mind that brain fog is temporary. The following tips can help you to cope as you regain clearer thinking:
Set a reminder on your phone for you to “Turn off the toaster,” use an online calendar to track bill due dates, or put a Post-It note by the door reminding you to hang up your car keys. Tricks like these will help you to stay on task when your mind is stuck in the sludge.
Keep a journal.
In mourning, you not only lost a loved one, there are also secondary losses that accompany it. Your life may now include the loss of security, companionship, or financial stability. Writing out your feelings, concerns, and joys can help you to process your loss and the brain fog that comes with it.
If possible, be honest with those around you about your mental haziness. Trying to hide it can contribute to your feelings of shame following a lapse in memory. Educate your supervisor, friends, and family about the fog of grief so that they can be supportive of you.
Read books about the stages of grief, go online and follow discussion boards about the fog of grief or brain fog, or talk to a friend who has been there. Although you can’t think your way out of bereavement, it can be helpful to know that what you are experiencing is universal.
Give it time.
It may seem like your co-worker bounced back 30 days after losing her spouse, but for you the fog seems relentless. Three months after your own loss, you still misplace your car keys and forget common words or names. Each person processes the death of a loved one differently. Be respectful of your own timeline.
Rest and recharge.
Your brain heals itself and solidifies memories while you sleep. Rest is one of the best ways out of the mental fog and temporary memory loss that you’re experiencing. It can be hard to get quality sleep following the death of a loved one. Ask friends and family for help. Allow others to watch the kids, cook dinner, or run an errand for your while you rest.
Grief support can help to normalize your experience. Support groups can help you to laugh off your frustration over leaving your wallet in the freezer. Experiencing grief alongside others who know what you’re going through can be helpful. If you prefer something more private, contact a therapist trained in grief counseling. He or she can also help you to process your feelings, which helps to clear away the cobwebs of the mind.
Talk to your doctor.
The frustration that comes with the fog of grief is intense and real. You may be concerned that your mental health is slipping or that your inability to concentrate is a sign of something more serious. If you don’t feel the fog lifting after long periods of time, consider seeing a doctor. He or she can rule out any underlying health problems. If your symptoms last for months or a year, you may be depressed or have something called complicated grief. Both of these conditions are treatable.
Accept your new normal.
Loss reshapes you. You can’t expect everything to return to the way it was. Embracing what is can help you to move forward. Once your body and mind stop fighting with reality and land on a place of understanding and acceptance, the fog of grief may clear up along with it.
Getting through the fog of grief takes time.
Know that what you are experiencing is common and that it won’t last forever. There is clarity beyond your grief. Take care of yourself and try to grant yourself some grace as you navigate your way to your new normal.
At Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, we treat you and your loved ones like family. If you have concerns about how you’re coping with a loss, please reach out us. Our compassionate staff members are always here to assist you.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.