Whenever we experience a sudden change in the form of a loss: losing control of our career path for example, the brain and body may go through a grief response. This can cause a lack of concentration, compromised memory and recall, reduced ability to make simple decisions, the inability to organise or plan and a general sense of “absent-mindedness” setting in. Physiologically, this can be explained.
There are effects of grief in many parts of the brain:
The parasympathetic nervous system: This is a section of our autonomic nervous system in the brain stem and lower part of the spinal cord. In this system, which handles rest, breathing, and digestion, we may find that our breath becomes short or shallow, appetite disappears or increases dramatically, and sleep disturbance or insomnia become an issue.
The prefrontal cortex/frontal lobe: The functions of this area include the ability to find meaning, planning, self-control, and self-expression. Brain scans show that loss, grief, and traumas can significantly impact emotional and physical processes. Articulation and appropriate expression of feelings or desires may become difficult or exhausting.
The limbic system: This emotion-related brain region, particularly the hippocampus portion, is in charge of personal recall, emotion and memory integration, attention, and our ability to take interest in others. During a loss, it creates a sensory oriented, protective response to loss. Perceiving loss and grief as a threat, the amygdala portion of this system instructs the body to resist grief. We may experience strong instinctual or physical responses to triggers that remind us of our losses.
Our psychological grief responses pull a great deal from the regions of our brain. The areas that manage attention and memory are activated; the sections that focus on emotion and relationships are stimulated; and the zones that are dedicated to planning and language are triggered.