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At 56, my brain has enough mileage to wear off some of the tread, even before the loss of my husband this August. After his death, though, I find it so much harder to remember details, make decisions even about simple things, keep a train of thought, you name it. I have a family business to keep afloat, so I was wondering if anyone who has experienced these aspects of grief has some insight about how long brain fog can last, or if there are any countermeasures or strategies that might help? Each person's grief is unique, but any advice or observations would be appreciated.

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I was 36 when he died, and I had the brain fog for several years. I had gone back to college when Alan was diagnosed, and was on the last couple classes before graduation when he died. I can remember sitting in front of the books, my head in my hands crying "think, brain, think!" 

I barely passed the last couple classes when I had a 4.0 average before... 

Time, sorry to say, is all that made a difference.

Thanks for your feedback Sus. The world can't really slow down for grieving people, I know. If I make, or rather, when I make mistakes, it just has to be a part of life without George, just like not eating or sleeping and all the rest .

It will be 3 years in January, and I still struggle with it (I'm 47).  The first 6-8 months were the worst.  I usually did fine at work.  As an assistant principal, I was always so busy and deeply involved with the students that I didn't really think about much else throughout the day (Although there were those moments when I had to tell the secretary I needed 15 minutes.  I'd lock my door and she ran interference so I could just have my cry and get past it.)  

Around 6 months, I did start exercising at home - swimming and walking an hour a day.  It would clear my head for a couple of hours and I could actually take care of paperwork or other tasks.  I also completely quit drinking.  I didn't drink much, but a glass of wine or a beer in the evenings was typical for me.  After my husband's death, it seemed that one little glass had the effect of much more.  The fog seemed amplified and instead of sitting for 30 minutes, I'd sit for 3 hours.  I decided I wouldn't drink again until the fog was gone, so I still don't drink.  The fog disappears for days or even weeks at a time now, but it's been back this week.  In fact, that's why I'm back on this website after being gone for a few months.  It's not nearly as thick as it was in the beginning, but still affects my ability to remained focused on much of anything in the evenings.  I have also considerably improved my eating habits, which has given me more energy.

I think the anxiety surrounding this U.S. presidential election, with the approaching holidays, is possibly a grief trigger for me.  We didn't have children, and a year ago I moved to a new state with very few friends and no family nearby.  It's difficult to distract myself when the waves of grief return.  I find myself wanting to go to bed early and just snuggle with my dogs.  But I know that by next week I'll likely be a bit better, and I have a trip in November to look forward to - planning a trip or special outing also seems to help.  

I think you just have to do your best to take care of yourself, but sometimes you also just have to give in to the fog and the grief and ride that wave until it hits the beach and breaks apart.  

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Melissa. (I am a Melissa, too. Liss was my family nickname). A big shout out to your work as a principal, as I am a former teacher. I have grown step children, but no biological children.
I suspected that the fog was pretty integral to the grief. It is disconcerting, though, to feel like your brain is at the bottom of a deep well, with you left peering down on it, wondering how to get it back. I am not even two months out at this point.
Your comment about exercise and its effects were interesting. I know that I need to move in that direction, but my lethargy right now is off the charts. Still, knowing that it might help some gives me more motivation. I am beginning to have an inkling about the "wave state" of grief, and your analogy about letting it wash you up onto the shore is apt.
I am hoping to find some evening activities (book group? --- assuming I can focus enough to read) to push through that time of the day. Just staying at the house every night without George seems like a one way ticket to Sorrow.
I am glad you have your dogs, though. I enjoy my friends' dogs a lot, and I have even made a couple of visits to them to get dog therapy. One day I hope to take trips again. George and I loved to travel.
Thanks for your insights.

Hello Liss, it's been 14 months since my husband passed and I still have some brain of the things that I have found helpful is to make lists of things that I want to accomplish at home and at work...hoping it clears soon.

I have always liked To Do Lists, but now I find I can't even remember things long enough to get them on a list. Voice memos on my phone maybe if I can make them immediately? I know part of the fog is the "Why am I here when he's not?" thing. The early stages of widowhood feel like I am in some state of suspended animation. Not exactly alive, though technically not dead.

Excersize seems to help for a little while at least

Jigsaw puzzles. 1000pc jigsaw puzzles are much easier than the smaller 100 - 750.

Our brain naturally slows down during grief to focus on the process of healing. One explanation below ...

-Eliminate multitasking. Research shows that our brain can only do one thing at a time well. So when we constantly shift attention from one activity to another, or entertain every interruption from a smart phone beep or email alert, we are making it harder for our brains to do their job. And while multitasking may make us feel more efficient, it actually overloads and fatigues the brain, making it less efficient. It also creates stress, which pours a toxic hormone called cortisol on the memory center of the brain.

This is a recurrent topic thread. I started one elsewhere myself. It was suggested to me to write things down and I explained that I can't even hold the thought long enough to get it written.  Today I was thinking that if I DO get something written down, later I forget that I did, or I can't remember to even look at what's written.  There's no compensation skill to combat this crazy scrambled brain feeling! The synapses are either firing like crazy, or maybe they aren't firing much at all.


My husband passed away suddenly so I had shock to deal with as well as grief.  My doctor told me that the human brain actually shrinks when we go through a shock like that.  On a MRI it is actually smaller, it has to reconnect the pathways again or make new ones.  That is why I felt so stupid after.  Thankfully it did go away.  As well every sense was 100% all the time.  Smells were too much, the guy at work microwaved the most vile smelling food everyday.  I took gravol for over 6 months after he died to help the dizziness & nausea.  I still threw up almost everyday for 6 months though.  My patience was zero too.  When people at work nattered on about some stupid thing that didn't matter at all I had to walk away.  Or I would have lost it.

I started doing crosswords to make my brain work.tried to not use GPS as much, again to make my brain be busy and think.  I will be 4 years in May 2017 & it is a lot better.  Notice everytime you actually remember something, to remind yourself it's starting to work again.

I do think that the shock of what happened has to affect the brain, but I'd not heard of the physical impact. I like to understand these things better, and not only take them at face value. Thanks for sharing what the doctor told you about the shrinking and proof on MRIs.

I understand what you're describing with the senses being on100%. I am finding that certain things cause sensory overload. I still can't really focus on things like magazines, which other widowed people have said is all they CAN focus on. Things that are fractured and multiple just cause me to shut down. I need simplicity and straightforwardness.  I also get very irritable and short fused. My brain just doesn't want to sift things and work to blunt or mute; it wants to just either/or.

Good idea to do 'exercises' to help the brain heal and 'grow.' 

I'm new to the group and 3-1/2 years out but I thought I'd reply anyway.  I remember how bad it was that first year. I'd walk into a grocery store and end up "spaced out" staring at an aisle of soap or crackers or something.  When iI'd come to it was like it had been a short black out. I didn't know how long I'd been standing there staring. I'd get scared and just leave the store in a panic.  I wish I could have found someone to scan my brain in those early days. I kept telling my doctor that I could actually FEEL a thought impulse start in my brain, move around and then stop because it had nowhere to go and could not complete itself. It was the strangest thing and made me feel crazy.  Though much less now, the brain still doea this at times and its like a mini - version of the grocery store episodes. I'm like a bunny in the headlights, just standing there searching my brain for a thought that doesn't seem to exist. 


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