Widowhood takes a toll on your mind and body, and many people have reported experiencing symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. The inability to concentrate, along with other common symptoms like memory loss and confusion, makes it difficult for widows and widowers to engage in normal, everyday activities.
It can be difficult to find the words to describe how you feel after your spouse dies. There’s a sense of loneliness, along with a feeling of not knowing how to function. There might also be a disconnection from reality, as though you’re going through your days as an observer.
This is known as widow brain, widow fog or simply trauma brain. It may be hard to believe that your physical brain is being impacted by grief when you don’t feel physically ill, but grief can have lasting effects on our bodies and minds.
What are the symptoms of ‘Widow’s brain’?
Grief comes in waves, and it doesn’t always occur the same way. For instance, some people report experiencing “widow brain” or some other type of memory confusion after their spouse dies.
Widow brain isn’t a medical diagnosis, but it’s a term that some widows use to describe the mental fog they experience after their partner passes away. Many say that they feel like their memory is failing them as they try to navigate life without their spouse.
The Widow’s brain symptoms have an effect on practically every area of everyday life and is frequently difficult to manage. Many people describe the following symptoms:
- Sadness to the extreme
- Fog in the Mind
- Exhaustion or Fatigue
How long does it take to heal from ‘Widow’s brain’?
How you grieve, and how long it takes, varies from person to person. Because widow brain can be caused by a number of factors — including grief, stress, and sleeplessness — there is no hard-and-fast rule for how long it will last. But knowing what widow brain is and how to deal with it may help you get through the worst of it.
When your spouse dies, you’re grieving. You’re missing that person who has been by your side for decades or even just a few short years. You’re also dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes with losing someone so significant in your life. And you might also be facing new stresses, such as taking on many of the tasks that had been your spouse’s responsibility or dealing with legal and financial matters.
Widow Brain can continue from two months to a year; however, there is no set time frame for how long the real grieving will remain. Instead, people often report that their Widow Brain symptoms improve throughout this period, although their feeling of loss remains. For example, you may notice that your short-term memory returns to normal after a few months, but this does not necessarily suggest that the healing process is complete.
How to Deal with ‘Widow’s Brain’?
The grief is overwhelming. It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. You worry about your kids, your finances, and the future. You’re angry one moment and crying the next. And then there are all those little things you keep forgetting.
While it can be a confusing and isolating experience for many people whose partner has died, there are ways to help manage a widow brain.
- Write things down — and use your phone’s calendar and reminders. To-do lists can be helpful for tasks that need to be done in a particular order. But if you have multiple tasks, like buying groceries or returning a library book, try entering those chores into your phone’s calendar or reminders app and setting them to alert you on a certain day.
- Phone a friend. Social support is critical in helping widows cope with their grief, so whether you’re forgetting to take your medication or pay bills, call someone you trust who can help you remember.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Even if you don’t want to bother people with your problems, remember that friends and family members want to support you through this difficult time.
- Take care of yourself. Stress and exhaustion can worsen widow brain, so make sure to get enough sleep at night, eat healthily and participate in activities that relax you and lift your spirits.
- Eat Well: Try to eat mostly fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, which can boost your brainpower. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, since they lack nutrients while being high in calories and fat.
- Get Enough Sleep: Make sleep a priority by going to bed at the same time every night. If you find yourself lying awake
Resources for Coping with a Spouse's Death
Healing after the death of a spouse takes time, but there are services available to assist you. Here are some resources to help you if you have just lost a loved one or are assisting someone who has lost a loved one:
- Schedule a session with a therapist or grief counselor.
- Use the Grief Resource Network to find support groups. Consider holding a memorial service.
- Join online grief support groups on Facebook or other social media sites.
- Get a book about coping with loss.
- Reintroduce yourself to things you used to like, such as running or going to the movies.
- Maintain your health by visiting your doctor on a regular basis.
Widow brain is not a clinical diagnosis; it’s just that there isn’t a term for what happens when you lose your spouse. There’s no name for the way grief affects the mind. It’s a real thing, though and you should get help if you experience it.