Grief support is among the cremations services that we provide. The grieving process is complex and can involve feelings of sadness, anger, bitterness, regrets, guilt, worry, despair, and distress. Death is a catastrophic loss and our reaction to it is no less catastrophic.
Grief can have a significant impact on the brain beyond the psychological and emotional shockwaves we experience when someone we love dies. Grief takes a lot of space in the brain and the impact can be seen neurologically.
Emotions and memories that we’re not able to handle or process yet get continually suppressed, which requires a lot of neurological focus and energy, leaving less and less for the normal cognitive tasks that the brain takes care of on a daily basis. The stress associated with the process of grieving creates new neural pathways – in other words, it literally changes the brain’s neuroplasticity. This means that our brains come out of the grieving process different than they were before we entered it.
A common thing that people who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one and who have been through the grieving process hear is that they are not the same person they were x number of years ago. And that is absolutely true. The brain is not the same, and, therefore, they are not the same.
Grieving requires a lot of neurological energy for reflection and introspection. As a result of this concentrated effort for a sustained period of time, people often change as a result of reflection and introspection because they see themselves and their behavior in a different light.
Some people may have been very competitive or argumentative before the loss of a loved one. That behavior may have changed to a more cooperative or live-and-let-live mindset as a result of the grieving process. These people may seem like completely different people, but what has changed is the way the brain works and thinks.
Because the grieving process takes up so much room in the brain, serious disruptions can occur while people are grieving. People may become more forgetful, more confused, more disoriented, and more emotionally and physically detached, Although this decreased functionality of the brain can cause concern among family and friends, it is a temporary condition and once the worst of the grieving process has passed, much of the normal functioning of the brain will return.
The root of why so much of the brain gets devoted to grieving is because the brain is trying to manage traumatic stress. Organized people may suddenly become less organized, while attentive people may suddenly become more distracted. Most of this is a result of disruption in the prefrontal cortex of the brain – where executive function, such as emotions, is handled.
Different parts of the brain are affected by the grieving process. They include the amygdala, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction, the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance, cognition, and coordination, the cingulate cortex, which handles the relationship between memories and emotions, the thalamus, which relays sensory information to the cerebral cortex (responsible for emotional awareness and higher levels of thinking), and the parahippocampal gyrus, which also has a part in forming and storing memories.
That’s a taxing load on the brain and what usually predominates is simply the flight-or-fight response at all stimuli, no matter its source, while we are in the grieving process, which affects daily life in dramatic ways.
For more grief resources as part of our cremations services, depend on our compassionate and experienced team at Hopler & Eschbach Funeral Home to help you. You can visit our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can call us today at (607) 722-4023.