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Short and Sweet Summary: When your ability to remember things or manage simple tasks goes haywire, you’re not going crazy. You’ve suffered a devastating loss and it’s simply your brain’s response to trauma. This “widow fog” or “widow brain” phase is frustrating, for sure. But, you can help yourself deal with widow fog by learning how to take better care of you.

If you’re searching to ways to manage your forgetfulness and lack of focus, you’ve come to the right place.

You’re likely experience the phenomenon known as “widow fog” (or widow brain or grief fog or grief brain). It’s called widow fog because it’s like your brain is in a constantly hazy, unclear state. The forgetfulness and lack of focus is simply your brain’s way of protecting you from the full shock of your loss.

When your ability to remember things or manage simple tasks goes haywire, you’re not going crazy. It’s simply your brain’s response to trauma. In fact, according to The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory you’ve suffered THE most stressful life event possible. The death of a spouse is at the top of the scale of stressful life events. So it’s no wonder you have trouble concentrating.

I’ve written before about what widow brain is and some simple ways to deal with it.

But there are even more things you can do to help yourself. In addition to the suggestions I outlined in the previous posts, I’m including more shockingly simple ways to deal with widow fog and get yourself back to some sense of normalcy.

WHAT ARE SOME WIDOW FOG SYMPTOMS AND BEHAVIORS?

But first, let’s go over some widow fog symptoms you may be experiencing.

Do any of these sound like you?

Frustration

If you keep misplacing your car keys or walking into a room and forgetting what you walked in for, you’re probably wondering why you can’t keep track of things like you used to. Your frustration gets worse because nothing is normal and you don’t feel like it will ever be normal again.

Anxiety

Anxiety rears its ugly head when you can’t complete sentences because you’re at a loss for words. Maybe you’re unable to complete tasks you’ve done hundreds of times before, like refilling prescriptions. Or you’re anxious because your short-term memory has gone kaput.

Confusion

You don’t understand why it’s so difficult to organize your pantry or write out a grocery list. Maybe simple addition and subtraction calculations are harder now (like they were for me). Have you ever walked out of your house with two different pairs of shoes on? I have!

Overwhelm

With so much going on in your life, it’s no wonder you’re overwhelmed. Routine activities take twice as long or you’re missing schedule appointments because your train of thought is so easily interrupted.

HOW TO HELP YOURSELF THROUGH THE WIDOW FOG PHASE

I use the term “phase” because this widow fog feeling you’re experiencing won’t last forever. It’s not the problem you think it is because it’s really just a normal response to the trauma you’ve experienced as a result of your spouse’s death. Think of it like your brain’s coping mechanism.

Once you’ve had time to process and adjust to your current way of living, things will start to improve. It could take months or it could take years. But how well you’re taking care of yourself is one very important factor.

In addition to the seven ideas suggested in this post, try to incorporate one or more of the following ideas into your daily routine.

Ask for and accept help

You can’t do everything by yourself. Believe me, I tried and damn near suffered a nervous breakdown because of it. There’s no shame in asking for or accepting help because, quite honestly, people want to help you. So let them. When you don’t ask for help when you need it, your widow fog may last longer than necessary because you’re adding additional stress  to an already stressful situation.

Make lists

This may seem like a no-brainer, but maybe you even forget to make a list. So, try carrying a small notebook in your purse so you always have paper available or keep a list on the notes app on your phone.

Use phone reminders

You don’t even have to remember to write stuff down if you just use the built-in assistants on your smart phone to remind you of important tasks. Both Android and Apple products have assistants that help you set reminders by simply asking, “Ok Google, remind me to make an oil change appointment” or “Hey Siri, remind me to call the doctor tomorrow for my test results.”

Exercise

I’m sure the last thing you feel like doing is exercising, but did you know that you release “feel good” chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in your body when you exercise? You actually have control over how to stimulate feel good chemicals in your body! I’m not even talking about all-out, sweaty, 60-min HIIT cardio class. Simple things like walking, yoga, or riding your bike can do wonders for your mental health and won’t put additional strain on your already strained system.

Eat right

The American Psychological Association has studies that show a diet high in a variety of nutrients can protect your health and provide more physical energy to deal with challenges. Let that sink in. You can increase your physical energy to deal with challenges (and we have a LOT of those) by eating well. When widow brain is in high gear, you need to get some good food into your body, stat. Even if that means just one apple a day to start, make eating right a higher priority.

Journal

When you have confusing thoughts and feelings swirling around in your head it only leads to more confusion. But when you get those thought and feelings out of your head, and onto paper, magic happens. The thoughts and feelings become less overpowering and more manageable because you’re able to reflect on what you wrote from a different viewpoint. When you’re just thinking thoughts, your brain can play tricks on you. But when you write those thoughts down, you gain valuable insight and clarity by analyzing your more confusing emotions.

WIDOW WRAP UP

Even though your life might feel like it’s spinning out of control, you do have more control over things than you might think. The widow fog or widow brain phase is frustrating, for sure. But, you can help yourself through it by taking better care of you.

Start by eating right and exercising. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just a few servings of fruit a day or a 20-minute walk. Just something to feed your body what it craves – good food and movement.

Use your smart phone to set reminders so you don’t have to worry forgetting appointments. Ask for and accept help so that you’re not overburdened with to-dos.

And finally, write down your thoughts and feelings to get a better perspective of what’s swirling around in your brain.

Taking the time to take care of yourself is a shockingly simple way to ease out of the widow fog phase and back to the land of the living.

You can do this!

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