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Friday, March 1, 2013

This Is Your Mind on Grief--Cognitive Changes

Two of the symptoms of early grief are difficulty with concentration and memory problems.  In my case I also experienced trouble finding the right word when talking.  The difficulty with concentration can prevent a grieving individual from being able to read a paragraph from the newspaper, watch a television show, or attend to daily responsibilities.  Memory problems can range from misplacing keys to forgetting what had transpired the prior day. 

When speaking, the grieving individual may have trouble articulating as well as they use to and when they are aware of the problem it can become a source of embarrassment and worry.  Many individuals suffering from these symptoms, including myself, wonder if there is something seriously wrong with them and if the changes are permanent. There have been research studies that have shown neurological and immunological changes may be involved in how individuals respond to grief.  There is also speculation that permanent changes in brain structure may happen like those that have been seen in individuals with major depression.

Next month will be the 7th anniversary of my son’s death and as I reflect back on the first few months of grief I can see that the fear of never being able to concentrate again was unfounded.  I believe my concentration is as good as it was prior to my grief journey.  However I wonder about the other two symptoms.  I don’t have memory problems with current events or events prior to the accident but there are events in the first few weeks after my son’s death that I do not recall at all or only in pieces.  I think that may be a protective mechanism because my brain could not handle the trauma.  However I now wish I had a clearer picture of events such as the memorial service at the university and meeting with Robert’s friends and teachers.
I sometimes still have trouble finding words when I am speaking and this bothers me quite a bit. I have always loved words and enjoy verbal and written exchanges.  When I am speaking to someone and I can’t find the word I want to use, I will explain to the other person that this problem is a result of my experience with my son’s death.  As I get older I am sure that people have begun to think it is more of an age-related problem but I know that my brain was forever altered by the events of that April night.

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