Good Grief: How Mourning Can Affect Your Memory

Greif and Memory

Of two things we can be certain: death and taxes. Yet, we never seem prepared for the death of a loved one.

Having dealt with grief and mourning in my own life, I have a certain empathy for those who are experiencing this painful aspect of life. Since I’ve experienced many different types of grieving which have resulted in my expressing or not expressing my grief, I find that socially and culturally grieving is not understood very well.

This has led me to do research on the topic. Because I speak day-to-day with many people in various stages of mourning and hear their pain in their voice, I’d love to share some of the information I’ve found.

Grief isn’t just for mourning death

It seems in our culture that grieving is only acceptable if you’re mourning the death of a very close loved one. Yet, scientifically it has been proven that we as humans grieve over many aspects of life such as losing our health, losing a friend or beloved pet. Losing a job and divorce is cited as huge factors for entering depression which is the result of the grieving process.

If we could be allowed to look at what we’re experiencing as what it truly is – mourning the loss of something or someone we truly loved, then perhaps we could get on with the process.

You're not alone with grief

Complex Grief

As if grief isn’t bad enough, did you know there is such a thing as complicated grief? I didn’t either until I began to study the topic. It seems that when I need things to be the simplest it is when I am mourning, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Complicated grief, according to medical literature, is when the grief isn’t simply emotional. When we experience loss, some of us more sensitive creatures tend to experience it on every level, even the physical. Loss felt deeply for long periods of time will wreck your immune system, cause your adrenals to be overworked and your hormone regulation to disrupted. Essentially, you become very weak, tired and quite possibly sick.

But what about memory?

Interestingly, grief impacts memory deeply. In recent years, a study was published that followed those who had experienced grief from the loss of a loved one. It showed that short-term memory was affected for all the study participants. For those that grieved longer, complicated grief became an issue and memory was impacted even more.

For those suffering complicated grief, they could remember almost anything as long the memory involved the deceased loved one. Most other memories were severely impacted if the memory did not include their loved one.

Other studies have shown that in some instances, people who are grieving suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is known to have memory impact as well. With complicated grief there’s the problem of multiple issues affecting the brain at the same time. Depression, PTSD, and anxiety all contribute to major memory issues sometimes resulting in episodes of complete forgetfulness of the most basic of tasks.

The Good News

We are here for youHere’s what you should know. While grieving and mourning are different for every person and can vary drastically in length for each person, the memory issues normally go back to normal once the opportunity to completely grieve has occurred. This could be years of memory issues in varying intensity but only if the person is experiencing severe complicated grief for a very long time will it cause changes in the brain that could cause lasting memory issues.

What you can do

When I speak with grievers, the first thing I tell them is they are perfectly OK. They need to be reassured that what they are going through is normal. I’m told every time that this helps them immediately and tremendously. My experiences and research tell me that even with the scariest episodes of memory loss (can’t remember how to start a car) it is merely a stark wake up call for you to listen to what your body needs. It needs support from you to go through the process of letting go.

Support your health by:

  • Getting the right amount of sleep. During mourning you may need 10+ hours of sleep or up to 4 naps throughout the day. As long as you are listening to your body, you’re doing it right.
  • Eat nutrient dense and non-processed foods. The thought of shopping for organic foods and preparing foods can be exhausting. But not doing so could result in suffering more fatigue and brain fog by consuming processed foods or not eating enough. Don’t be afraid to ask friends to help by preparing healthy meals for you. Chances are they will love an opportunity to do something tangible to help you.
  • It’s perfectly fine to carve out time and space for yourself. Many people think you have to “get back out there” in a certain amount of time after a loss. Please know they are well-intentioned and doing the best they can, however, it is not helpful to you. It ends up putting pressure on you to rush the process and to stuff your feelings, so others aren’t uncomfortable. The research suggests that if you are isolating for more than a year, then you may want to reach out to a professional for help in determining if there is a real issue or if you just need more time to process.

Please know if you’re experiencing grief there are resources out there for you. If you’d like to know how MindBoost can help you during this difficult time, check out our products page or call us toll-free at 1-888-503-2911.

We’re here to help.

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