Widow fog, who knew? And who knew that most widows have it, at least for a while. Nobody told me that my memory would suddenly get misty. It’s just not talked about in polite company. Well, truthfully, most things about widowhood are not talked about in polite company, because, you know…death and all.
We don’t talk about it, so we don’t know that it’s very, very common. Almost universal, in fact. Since we don’t discuss it, I guess everybody chalks it up to “old age”. I’m pretty sure that’s why we hear widows referred to “crazy old widows” or the “crazy widow down the street”. There’s more to it than just aging.
I’ve long thought that the medical community completely misses the mark when considering patients who are grieving. My mother’s geriatrician, that’s right…geriatrician…a Doc who treats the elderly for a living… told her that her grief was “lasting too long” at six months. It (grief) should be over by then. He had no idea how close I nearly came out of the chair and grabbed him by the collar. What a doofus!
No, grief lasts longer than that, generally, and so does the cloudy memory. Our brains shut down a little for a while when we lose somebody dear. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from shock and complete overload.
My husband died quite suddenly and almost immediately I started operating on two cylinders. I got through all the life and death decisions, all the arrangements with stunning efficiency, and then the brain tsunami hit me. There were days when I couldn’t be trusted to remember my name, as I recall. Hair appointments, appointments were forgotten even though I wrote them down. I even showed up a day late for eye surgery! I wrote that one down too! And I looked at the date repeatedly. I didn’t forget the surgery, I simply forgot what day it was, in my head. Wednesday was Tuesday and Friday became Sunday. My world was just spinning. I even created a downloadable printable planner just for widows, with daily inspirations. It’s available in two sizes that fit in standard three-ring notebooks. I’m happy to share it with you here:
Does it get better? Yes. It does. It gradually improved over about a year and a half. By two years, I was seldom messing up anymore. I still rely on lists and calendars more than I did, and who knows what’s behind that. Could it be the aging process? Maybe. Could it be the residue of some minor brain damage from the overload? Maybe.
I do know that I am clear about wishing the medical community would do more research on the effects of grief, in the short term as well as the long term. Don’t you? Now, what were we talking about?
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