Grieving and Memory Problems September 17, 2020

Grieving and Memory

Feeling forgetful? Have you tried to reminisce about the time period that you were grieving and have a hard time remembering the details of it all. Grieving can have a multitude of effects on the brain, especially when dealing with complicated grief. One of those things is memory difficulties and even memory loss. Grieving and memory problems are not something that people talk about often when talking about grief.  

Grief Story

A woman, we will call her Carmen, lost her brother when she was 12 years old and years later lost her dad when she was 30 years old. Both were profound losses but each were unique in how she experienced grief. One death was an unexpected tragedy the other was a result of a long battle with a terminal disease. One she was a child who lost her teenage sibling. The other she was an adult she lost her loving parent. While she maintained a few blaring painful memories that would haunt her at moments when grief hit hard, the only other similarity between the two bouts of grief were that she forgot a lot about that time period. 

Grief and brain Function

Just as stress can compromise how your brain functions, grief can have the same impact. Confusion, trouble concentrating, lack of focus and memory loss are some of the side effects of stress on the body and mind.  Grieving and memory problems can go hand in hand. Many struggle with remembering things while in the midst of the grief and stress. Often things will go back to normal as the “grief” settles and likely much time as passed. For some, chunks of that time frame are  missing from long term memory. 

Grief story continued:

Carmen would sit in the dugout at the old baseball field where her brother was a star athlete before his shocking passing. She could remember him playing baseball and winning the championship, that memory was as clear as day. She could not however remember receiving the award she won for winning the state speech competition. It was 6 months after his death. She knew she was there but has very little memory of that day. She also remembers what he smelled like, and the images of his funeral but couldn’t remember what she wore, what she was thinking or even what else occurred that day. So many of her memories of that time era seemed to be erased or at the very least buried very deep inside. 

Grief Looks Like:

Disruption of Hormones

Lack of Sleep


Stress and anxiety

Grief really beats up on the immune system as well as brain function. In some instances studies have shown that people who are grieving suffer post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). When dealing with PTSD it is known to impact memory as well. 

Complicated Grieving and Memory Loss

Complicated Grief “is when grief goes on for longer than normal and has a severe impact on your quality of life.” When dealing with complicated grief it is not uncommon to experience both PTSD and as a result memory issues. If you feel that this might be you, if you are stuck in grief and haven’t been able to move forward.Maybe your are experiencing things such as memory loss and symptoms of PTSD, seek professional help. There are many great grief support groups as well as online counseling to help move through your pain.  


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