Your Brain Deletes Stuff When You’re Grieving

Your brain deletes stuff when you're grievingYour brain deletes stuff when you're grieving.

In the weeks and months after my mother’s death, I thought I was going crazy. 

I couldn’t read a page without feeling like I’d lost my mind. Because when I got to the end of the page I no longer remembered what I’d just read. I forgot characters’ names, locations, and just couldn’t hold on to the plotline. 

I believe I crawled out of my mother’s womb as a committed bookworm. I rarely went anywhere without a book in my bag. I snatched moments of reading time while I waited outside my daughter’s school gates, at the doctor, and sometimes even in the checkout line!

So not being able to read, much less enjoy a book felt almost scary. Was I losing it?

I didn’t know the difference between Tuesday and Thursday. I forgot important dates. I missed appointments. I searched everywhere for my glasses when they were right on top of my head.

One afternoon, I even forgot to pick up my teenager from school. She insisted she’d told me that she was staying late for theater rehearsal and reminded me of the pick-up time. I said she hadn’t...or i’d have remembered. We argued about it. Oh, the things my poor brain couldn’t hold on to.

It felt like a sieve had moved in where my brain was supposed to be.  I felt like an eighty-nine-year-old walking around in a forty-something body.

I didn’t know it back then. I do now. Grief overloads brain circuits. It squats like an elephant all over the brain crushing away neatly ordered files of information.

Apparently, this is completely normal. Why didn’t someone tell me this crucial piece of information? So I want to change that and let you know that this is REAL.

If everything I’ve shared about me sounds like you, don’t be alarmed. You can do things to help yourself.

* Write down every single thing--and I mean Every Single Thing--to help you remember. Like, “buy toilet paper”, “pick up kid from ballet class”, “car keys are on a hook in the foyer.”

* Give up the idea of multitasking. It’s not gonna work. Your brain is scrambled enough. Don’t make it harder.

* Take on only what you absolutely have to. If you had a 100 units of energy before loss, you have about 20 now. What must you absolutely get done with 20 units of energy? Shower. Drive to the store. Go to work. That’s it. You’re depleted. Do ONLY what must be done.

* Ask a trusted friend or relative for help to keep things straight. If you think “I’m not good at asking. I’m not gonna” you’re setting yourself up to fail. You have to start somewhere. Ask 1-2 people you know, like, and trust. 

Here’s the good news. The fog does lift. Clarity returns. Life becomes more manageable over time. Take heart.

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