Thursday, August 22, 2013

widow brain

There is no place in any of the self help, grief management, spiritual journey literature that discusses widow brain.  Lots of tips on emotional recovery, moving on but not a word about what happens in your head.  

Widow brain should become a new medical diagnosis. Briefly it is the inability to manage information. I have found it almost impossible in some ways to keep all this stuff straight.  I think it is a safety mechanism, a kind of mental shut off valve that keeps you afloat.   Examples are endless, good hearted friends send multiple emails about a get together and you either a) forget what they wrote, b) shelve them to read at another time and don't do it, c) simply space it all together.

However, that said, there is a list a mile long that needs attention most if it new territory.   Most of that list has consequences that get your attention such as hospital bills and warranty renewals on machinery that you didn't know you had.  Or the phone calls you get from various organizations.  To date my favorite is Mount Sinai financial folks who call and want to talk to Tom. The first time this happened I was nice and said he had passed away  However the 5th time my rather nasty response was.." he is still dead nothing much has changed. How can i help you?: Widows brain can also be snarky and unpleasant.

There are other symptoms such as simply staring out into space rather content to think about nothing as it is easier than tackling the to do list or forgetting what you were doing or going entirely.  Staying present seems a better alternative than planning too far ahead.

 Widows brain also has a dark side which is not recommended but needs to be recognized for what it is.  There are nightmares, and restless sleep or no sleep at all .  It is the widows brain on overdrive.

From now on I have promised myself to try to be a bit more aware of when the WB is kicking in and simply use the term to explain why I have screwed something up. It is not an excuse it is just a manifestation of a process.  Hopefully one that others understand.


  1. 1, 2, 3 implies the 4 - the hidden door. The Chinese neither see counting nor time as cumulative, bur as qualitative. They understand that counting backwards is just as important as seeing as time flowing backwards. A illustrative parable only days old: Our next day door neighbor, Chuck, as sweet a Morman that ever grew up on a ranch in Montana, can and will fix anything everything. Whether on a ranch or at sea, you learn self-sufficiency (not unlike your Tom in many ways). The 6 mailboxes of our 1/2 street hood are mounted on a simple wood post and beam. The posts were always sturdy but the beam has been slowly sagging and melting ever since we moved here 27 years ago. Chuck decided on a sunny Sunday afternoon, he'd replace the beam, give each box its unique wood plank base to anchor them to the beam, and then remount them in numerical order (the order had always been slightly askew). Even though plain as it was, It looked beautiful. Next day, the postman, a Taiwanese immigrant, was shocked. He quickly ascertained who had reconstructed the mail stop, and informed Chuck that the numerical order of the boxes had to be returned to the original sequence. Both somewhat amused and bewildered, Chuck spoke with the main P.O. supervisor who agreed that the revision made 'sense,' but the postman remained vehement, and prevailed. The next day, Chuck returned the boxes to their original 'chaos.' Who was right/wrong? A good party ice breaker I think this.... They were both right of course and I'm absolutely sure you know why. Write/talk more about the sea. Every time you smell it, touch it, ride it you get stronger and stronger. The waves were your cradle. Now let them be your phoenix.

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  3. Ahhhhh......'What light in yonder window breaks?'