Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You are listening to episode 18, titled Professional Grief Brain. Let me tell you – it has been a very complex week. I have started and written at least five episodes. So many ideas are coming to mind and yet every time I got halfway through a transcript, I lost my train of thought or questioned my work. By transcript #5, I realized I was experiencing grief brain. Yep! Even as a professional, I experienced this foggy inability to focus just like anyone else. So we’re going to talk about that a little bit in this episode and will hopefully be more cathartic for both of us than we could ever imagine.
So first of all, let’s define grief brain. If you’ve experienced this, you already know what I’m talking about and how overwhelming it can feel. Grief brain can feel like walking through molasses. Everything seems to move more slowly around you and you lose your train of thought easily. Your attention span is much shorter than usual and sometimes you even forget what you were saying mid-sentence. That was actually how I noticed what was happening to me but, like I said, even as a professional it didn’t register right away. Sometimes my thoughts are darting so quickly they feel backwards. Grief brain can be easy to explain away with fatigue or a busy schedule. Maybe you have a lot of distractions in the room with you, which I certainly did while writing. Again – they’re an easy scapegoat for the fact that I just can’t get the words on the page.
I kept writing, even though nothing was making sense and finally, I paused. I looked at all the unfinished drafts, based on the week behind me, and realized I was lost. There were far too many grief events this week for me to comprehend and think clearly. I learned of so many new losses and upcoming grief anniversaries. I had multiple friends mistreated, and witnessed a few public witch hunts (quite literally, which still blows my mind). I have mental health peers lamenting that they too are on the edge of burnout, despite their best efforts to maintain balance with dark chocolate and even darker humor.
Recently my husband asked how I can handle working with grievers. How do I care for myself when all the conversations I have revolve around loss and sorrow? Most of the time my answer involves my own mental wellness practices, including movement, water, nourishment of my body, mind, and heart. And while those practices weren’t lacking this week, the culmination still overwhelmed me to the point of wordlessness.
I’m not ignorant of the irony that I have words right now to tell you this story. But again, I want to applaud my husband for a moment. After hearing me struggle to write and focus, he gently suggested I take a break. And while I do have balance and temperance in my life, right along with “quitting hours” at the end of my work from home workdays, I do push myself hard. I have high as the sky expectations for myself and sometimes, that gets out of hand. We can lose sight of our purpose when we become consumed with the production of a thing. Making it perfect, trying to seem like we have it all together. Hoping no one notices that we are writing through tears.
But just like losses that pile upon one another, eventually that mask of performance must fall. Grief deserves to be honored; to be aired and respected as a natural, healthy process. By wrestling with my own stuff this week, that’s exactly what I feel I’ve been able to do.
And that’s really all I wanted to share with you. Even the professionals become overwhelmed in loss. It’s easy to see our work and assume we’re well balanced but we’re human. We may seem quite different, but we simply have a different area of expertise than you. No matter the work we all do, our humanity is precious, important, and worthy of rest and restoration – just like yours.
Thank you for listening to episode 18 of Restorative Grief. Okay, so here’s your takeaway. You didn’t think I was just going to share my own lament and leave you hanging? Absolutely not! We’re in this together. So this is what I want you to do. Evaluate your last week. Really think about what you experienced that was maybe a little harder than you’ve admitted. Did you encounter grief in any form? Loss of a life, an expectation? Maybe a friend was insulted on social media and it grieved you to know they were wounded.
Now with that in mind, evaluate your production level. Did you push yourself past your limits? How about past the energy you had each day? I am used to having an insane amount of energy each day, so on the lower energy days, I can be so discouraged about my work and my contribution. But borrowing energy today from myself tomorrow leaves me in a continual deficit.
So the last thing I want you to evaluate is your energy level of each day in the last seven days. It doesn’t need to be fancy or official. Just a quick number. Set the scale however you’d like. But really look at your numbers. Did you realize you had way less energy the day you heard the heavy news? Did it change the way you cared for yourself? Because it really would be okay if it did. I’d argue that it would be necessary, in fact.
Remember: The only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next week.
Links + Resources for this episode:
One of my favorite tools. Take a break and rest.