Understanding the Fog of Grief: No, You Aren’t Losing Your Mind
Experiencing brain fog after the death of a loved one? You’re not alone. A significant loss or death can trigger a host of reactions in your body and mind.
While you may know to expect the five stages or grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), experiencing memory loss or the inability to concentrate can catch you off guard. You may begin to frequently lose your car keys, not pay your bills on time, or forget why you walked into a room. Brain fog encompasses issues with your memory, ability to pay attention and focus, speed of thought, and decision-making capabilities. Even though this mental haze is usually mild and doesn’t necessarily last for long periods of time, it can have an impact on your job performance, parenting, and relationships. Please know that you are not alone in experiencing this loss of mental acuity and that your lapses are very much a natural by-product of grieving.
Do you feel as if you are ‘walking through molasses’?
Experiencing grief is individual to each person, but it creates similar chemical reactions within each of us. A death is a trauma and your body and brain recognize it as such. Stress hormones get released and put your body in an elevated state of ‘flight or fight’ to help protect you. Your body doesn’t differentiate one type of stress from the other. Get too much of the stress hormone for a prolonged period of time, and the hormonal balance in your body gets out of whack. Soon, the reactions responsible for regulating your sleep, immune system, and mood from day to day are also out of balance. In short, your body and mind are overwhelmed by these stress-based reactions. This is when brain fog steps in.
Sometimes the death of a loved one is too devastating to face.
While you may think of brain fog as a major inconvenience, it’s actually your body’s way of protecting you from your pain and making it easier to bear. Feeling foggy can help you to temporarily disconnect from a much too painful reality. You may not even notice the fog until after you have returned to work or previous responsibilities. It may not be until you leave your keys in the freezer making you late to pick up the kids or forget mid-sentence what you were saying to a room full of stakeholders, that you realize there’s a problem. In other cases, you notice every mistake that you make and become frustrated, embarrassed, and/or sad. You may start to internalize your errors. Try to remember that it is not a character flaw and that grief and brain fog often go hand-in-hand. If you are worried that your lapses are more serious or are becoming dangerous (i.e. you frequently forget to turn off the toaster oven or iron before you leave the house), it may be time to seek emotional support or see your medical doctor.
It can be hard to recognize the fog of grief and seek help for it.
However, doing so may help shorten your fog’s duration. Talking to others who know what you are going through can be helpful. Look for grief support groups that are offered in your area. If sharing your feelings with a group is too much for you, try one-on-one support. Look for a licensed therapist who is trained in grief support. Whichever avenue you take, grief counseling can help you to get at the root of your pain and stress, which will address the mental haziness. If you feel unready to discuss it, consider checking out books on the topics of grief, bereavement, and mourning. It may help you to see that you aren’t losing your mind, brain fog is real, and that it does eventually reside.
You may be wondering, “When will my brain fog lift?”
The answer is, it varies. While it may come and go in 30 days for your neighbor, yours may hang around for long periods of time. The fog of grief is emotional, mental, and physical and can take time to unravel and release. In most cases, your memory loss and inability to concentrate should lift within a few months and aren’t permanent. In some cases, it may take longer. If your brain fog seems to be getting worse or the intensity is fairly consistent, your mental health may be affected but there is treatment. If you are not able to move past your grief after months or years, you may be suffering from complicated grief (CG), or persistent complex bereavement disorder. This type of grief follows a tragic loss and is one marked by the survivor's inability to move past their strong, negative emotions regarding their loss. It can look like depression but requires a different treatment. If you think that you have complicated grief, talk to your doctor. He or she can determine if what you have is CG or depression and help you to find the appropriate treatment (Complicated Grief Therapy (CGT) and/or antidepressants).
The fog of grief can disrupt your life, but it should ease up over time.
Know that you are not alone in experiencing memory lapses following the death of a loved one. Your pain and mental blocks will lift and get easier to bear as time goes on.
We hope you find this information useful and that it can help you and your loved ones through your personal grief journey. If you have questions or need additional resources, please reach out to our caring team.
About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization serving three states, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. With three convenient locations serving both North and West Philadelphia, as well as Trenton and Drexel Hill, it is always our pleasure to be of service. Please visit our website for more information.