Loss is truly a state of situation where we don’t just lose someone or something, we lose part of ourselves in the event and ensuing process; the identity goes through deconstruction, and that overhaul, for the fortunate ones, is the genesis of reformation.
One of the greater deficits we find with the sheer stress of it all, are the mental shifts that leave us bereft for an explanation. We can think we’re going mad, dazed in confusion, because our mind plays tricks on us that shatter our confidence.
It’s because within the mind — the conscious mind — there are like seven rooms, with space, for thought, for cognition, for creativity, for attribution, for communication, for problem-solving. The unconscious mind escapes in sleep and carries us off into a fantasy the opposite of nightmares, which is why we cannot face the initial waking moment in grief — when we can wish for anything but consciousness. But it’s the conscious mind that we’re interested in, for the terms of memory.
If there are seven rooms, the notional complete picture of a conscious mind able to perform all the tasks we expect it to, some of those rooms are completely occupied in the stress implicit of grief. Some of them are partially full with a convoluted, confused mix of information designed to confound us easily. (These are the same conditions someone with sleep deprivation experiences.) But all rooms are somewhat affected, and there is less mental efficiency and output overall.
A large part of the problem for those who grieve who are aged is the torment within the thought that is Alzheimer’s disease — the commonest dementia. Sharp and cavernous grief can mimic dementia, at least to persons unqualified to assess it, who fear such a ‘could-it-be’ diagnosis. And we know that there is early onset dementia, so the fact that we can develop it at any age means anyone experiencing the memory deficits outbound of loss can feel threatened — which further exacerbates stress, adding pressure to the already crowded accommodation facility in our mind. Little wonder we can feel confounded.
It’s good to know there’s a reason loss impacts memory during grief, because it explains it; that major stress inhibits the mind. Acknowledging stress helps us know we best go gently, not expecting too much, even anticipating the mental, emotional and spiritual limits we face. Thankfully grief doesn’t limit memory permanently.