How Grief Affects Thinking

We have been talking about the importance of timely estate planning in many of these posts. Obviously it is optimal to plan when we are clear-headed. We also know that grief can cloud thinking. This is why an estate plan, complete with health care directive, can ensure that your loved ones have what they need and that your wishes are carried out.

5 ways grief affects thinking

When someone we love dies, we experience a mental shift. We are no longer “in our right mind.” This is to say we are not thinking in the ways we normally would. Here are some other scientifically documented affects of grief on the mind:

  • We are unable to concentrate, organize or plan
  • We lack the focus and drive to complete necessary tasks
  • Our memory is not as sharp. Sometimes we forget even the most important things
  • Decision making is difficult
  • We feel muddled, or “in a fog”
  • We are unable to express find the “appropriate” way to express our feelings
  • We can lose interest in self-care and be unable to give care and attention to others

Ways to manage and cope with grief

Everyone grieves in their own way- some people long for company and companionship and others wish to spend more time alone. There are some things we can do to help us get through the day.

Here are six proven ways to help:

  1. Know that it’s okay to ask for help. Most likely there is a friend or family member who is happy to come over and tidy up, mow the yard, run an errand or cook a meal. Ask. Say yes.
  2. Get plenty of rest. When we grieve our sleep patterns can become disjointed. Take a nap any time you feel the need. Take a day just to “lie around” and do nothing.
  3. Pray, meditate or read positive, affirming quotes or stories.
  4. Write down your feelings in a journal. It can be as simple as one word or one line a day. Some people set a timer and write for a few minutes each morning. Writing is often a healthy way to acknowledge and release thoughts and feelings.
  5. Talk to someone. This can be a clergy member, mental health provider, or trusted friend. Set aside an hour a week for time to talk about your loss.
  6. Eat as healthy as you are able. Grief can turn on or off our appetite. Remember that eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will all help your body and mind.

Neurologist Lisa M. Shulman, MD, who is a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland, says in her Johns Hopkins University Press article, that grief is brain trauma, and can affect our brains much like a physical concussion. Take the time to create your estate plan. Not only for your own peace of mind but also for the well-being of your family.


Recent Posts