How Grief Affects the Brain

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Part of the cremation services offered in Dayton, OH include a wide variety of grief resources that can help bereaved people as they make their way through the process of grieving.

Most people are aware of the immense changes that grief can bring to almost every aspect of our lives. Grief, for example, can muddy our thinking, slow our reaction time, interrupt our sleep, and make concentration on anything difficult if not impossible. So in addition to being a profoundly painful experience, grief also causes neurological changes in our brains. And these changes occur with all kinds of grief, not just the grief associated with losing a loved one.

For example, grief can occur with many types of losses, even those that go hand-in-hand with the normal transitions of life. We feel grief, for example, when we experience a change in circumstances such as retirement, relocation, or when a child goes off to college. Though these life transitions are obviously not on the same scale as the loss of a loved one, they nevertheless represent losses of things that have been normal and familiar in our lives.

If we think about the difficulty we’ve had in the past with adjusting to the normal transitions in life, then we can understand how much more of an impact our grief over losing a loved one has on our ability to think clearly, to function, or to process the loss we have experienced. And the effects on the brain are multifaceted and come from multiple regions, including the prefrontal cortex and areas within the limbic system.

These areas of the brain involve things like memory, learning, multitasking, and emotional regulation, and when the hormones and neurochemicals that are produced by grieving our introduced to the mix, the changes come fast and furious: our sleep is disturbed, our appetite is lost, our anxiety levels skyrocket, and our fatigue threatens to overwhelm us. We experience our environment as something that is no longer familiar, and our surroundings seem murky and unfathomable.

The reality is that losing a loved one is unchartered territory. Whether it’s a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or a child, the prospect of life without a loved one is unknown and may seem, in the early stages of grief, impossible to not only imagine, but to also actually live.

As hard as it is to believe, these changes to the brain when we are grieving are normal. We also may feel intensely alone in our grief, and isolated from our friends and loved ones even when we are surrounded by them. This, too, is normal when we are grieving. And although there is no set timeline, we will eventually find a path through the worst of our grief to a point where we can gradually return to our lives, knowing it will encompass a new normal.

It’s critically important, however, that while we are grieving we redouble our efforts at self-care. This includes, most importantly, getting enough sleep. When we are sleep deprived, all other efforts at self-care become next to impossible.

So sleep, as difficult and elusive as it may seem while we are grieving, cannot be emphasized enough. In addition, it’s important that we eat well, exercise, and take time out to process the loss we have experienced. Finally, it’s important that we find support, whether it’s through friends, family, or through an outside professional. This support, combined with self-care, will help us navigate the path toward healing.

For more information about grief resources at cremation services in Dayton, OH, our caring and knowledgeable staff at Glickler Funeral Home & Cremation Service is here to assist you. You can visit our funeral home at 1849 Salem Ave., Dayton, OH 45406, or you can call us today at (937) 278-4287.

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