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Concentration difficult during times of grief

“I feel like I am losing my mind!”

These words greeted me as I entered the home of a church member who had recently lost her mother after an extended illness.

The lady proceeded to share her difficulty in focusing upon tasks both at home and at her job. It soon became apparent that my friend was experiencing a stage of grief that is very common.

She could not get away from thoughts of her mother’s loss. Consequently, she found herself unable to begin simple tasks or even to successfully complete a task at home or at work. As she realized that her work was not what she was capable of producing, she began to worry about her mental health.

In addition, she found herself asking people to repeat what they were saying and those individuals would respond by asking, “What is wrong with you?” This lady simply could not concentrate.

The person who struggles with grief may have this kind of experience. The grieving person may begin to have all kinds of unpleasant thoughts of people she knows who have been diagnosed with some kind of mental problem. But the inability to concentrate in a time of grief is a natural process.

We need to realize how strange it would be if we could put aside our grief and concentrate upon tasks, problems, and relationships with no interference from grief!

Because we have lost one who is of great value to us, we must expect to be drawn to thoughts of the one we have lost and slowly realize that the loved one is gone from our world forever.

This response is panic. Panic results as the grief process disrupts our daily life in terms of thoughts, tasks, and relationships. This in turn may result in the person becoming paralyzed with fear.

This fear is the result of the unknown or what we may not understand. The result is panic that leaves us hostage to emotions we don’t understand and resulting actions that frighten us.

Understanding the grief process in advance of the crisis enables us to overcome the resulting panic that we may experience in the grieving process. When we can understand the tricks that grief can play on our minds, then we are not overwhelmed by the resulting thoughts that might invade our minds.

Please understand that this is the panic of thinking we are going through some abnormal experience when in reality the panic is perfectly normal.

What can we do to get through a period of panic when we cannot do anything but think about the loss that has been suffered?

One thing that we can do is to be open to new relationships with people. Instead of removing ourselves from contact with people, we need to go out and force ourselves to be nice and interact with new people in social settings. Learning to think new thoughts about the world around us can free us from the panic.

When we choose to wallow in our misery, we will discover that we are trapped in grief that will only prolong the travail we are experiencing. Remember, it is hard work to work through grief!


Dennis R. Tate is a spiritual and bereavement counselor with Community Hospice, Inc. He can be reached at 740-532-8841.