Retraining Our Brains Through Grief

“During periods of grief the human brain undergoes a process known as neuroplasticity, in which the brain rewires itself in response to emotional trauma.” ~ Widows Empowerment Trust

Moving one block away from our home has been surprisingly disorienting for me. Although I can walk the same routes on the streets I’ve walked on for 30+ years, the neighbourhood seems different.

Across the road from Marina Place is the beautiful forest trail of living breathing trees as well as the fallen nurse tree skeletons. I go there daily, it’s short but healing, bringing me out onto Harmony Lane not far from our home. I occasionally walk by our family home, either at the front or on the back lane, conditioning myself to the new reality.

The Backwards Book

A couple of days ago I picked up a book from “Gramma’s Wee library”, a birdhouse shaped library on a nearby street. This book was a rare find…it was bound backwards. All the pages were there but the reader was forced to read from back to front, similar to Japanese books.

My brain did not know how to do it. Once I even found myself attempting to read a page from bottom to top, I was so confused! By halfway through the book, I had adjusted fairly well.

How does this fit with grief and its accompanying brain changes? Grief is like a cerebral accident and upsets our brain chemicals and hormones, affecting every part of us, from muscles to organs. Our brains are rewired, resulting in mood changes, brain fog, extreme tiredness, forgetfulness and so on. “The emotional trauma of loss results in serious changes in brain function” says Lisa Shulman.

Grieving Brains Must Rewire

Our brains create neural maps to keep track of our relationships, Deborah L. Davis tells us in a Psychology Today article. When our partner dies, our brain must redraw its neural maps, making new connections. Very slowly, we draw new maps.

This mammoth job can take years to complete. We’re triggered often because our brain is stuck in old modes. In my case the depth of my grief at losing my soulmate of many lifetimes has brought up other unfinished business. This has resulted in depression of my vital energy and grief bursts over the past three years.

I read recently that the authors of a survey found 38% of the Americans surveyed were still grieving intensely after three years, especially with partner or child loss.

My grief bursts have not stopped me from moving forward with my major move and with new and refreshed projects over the past few months, however they are interfering with my life in the sense that they are exhausting and affect my sense of self…my confidence.

Medication Can be Useful

This week I chose to re-start Prozac, a small dose in a liquid form. Looking back, I think the grief crying bursts began again when I eliminated the Prozac completely, after decreasing it for one year.

My philosophy towards the medication is different this time. I do not see taking it as a failure to cope, a stigma or a breach of my holistic philosophy. Rather I see it as another tool to help my brain as it rewires itself and I “grow around my grief”.

Copyright 2023 Ellen Besso

Reprinted from Eclectic Spirituality

Check out Ellen Besso’s website: Eclectic Spirituality – Beyond Religious Belief (

Read more by Ellen on Open to Hope: Dreams Move the Grieving Process Along – Open to Hope

Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso is a retired Life Coach, Counsellor & an energy worker. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon. Ellen is currently working on a book about her partner’s illnesses, his transition & the myriad contact they have had since Don left this planet.

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