“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” – Elizabeth Edwards
The loss of a loved one or any significant loss can have profound effects on the brain and the overall psychological well-being of an individual. Sharon Tochinni, Ph.D offers a helping hand in the time of loss. Understanding loss and coming to terms with it is the first step to recovery.
How Loss Affects The Human Brain
Grief and Bereavement:
O’Connor, M. F. (2004). Bereavement and the brain: an imaging study. Psychiatric Annals, 34(4), 267-273 has shown that the experience of grief and bereavement involves various emotional, cognitive, and physiological processes. The brain regions implicated in grief responses include the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, insula, and amygdala. These areas are associated with emotional regulation, attention, memory, and the experience of pain.
Lupien, S. J., McEwen, B. S., Gunnar, M. R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behavior, and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445 suggest:
Experiencing loss triggers a significant stress response in the body, including the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. Prolonged stress can impact the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and learning, potentially leading to memory difficulties and cognitive impairment.
Neuroplasticity and Adaptation:
Carrion, V. G., & Wong, S. S. (2012). Can traumatic stress alter the brain? Understanding the implications of early trauma on brain development and learning. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51(2 Suppl), S23-S28.
The brain has the capacity for neuroplasticity, allowing it to reorganize and adapt to new circumstances. Following a loss, the brain may undergo structural and functional changes as part of the adaptation process. This can involve the formation of new neural connections and the rewiring of existing networks.
Shear, M. K., Ghesquiere, A., & Glickman, K. (2013). Bereavement and complicated grief. Current Psychiatry Reports, 15(11), 406. suggests:
In some cases, grief can develop into a condition known as complicated grief, characterized by persistent and intense symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. Neuroimaging studies have identified specific patterns of brain activity associated with complicated grief, highlighting dysregulation in areas involved in emotion processing and self-referential thinking.
Strategies for Building Strength in the Face of Loss
Experiencing loss, particularly the loss of a loved one, can be one of the most challenging and heartbreaking events in life. It can have a profound impact on our emotional well-being and leave us feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable.
However, building resilience in the face of loss is possible, allowing us to navigate through the pain and find strength in the process. In this article, we will explore seven strategies for cultivating soulful resilience in the midst of loss.
Acknowledge and Honor Your Feelings:
The first step towards building resilience is to acknowledge and honor your feelings. Allow yourself to grieve and experience the range of emotions that come with loss. Whether it’s sadness, anger, or confusion, giving yourself permission to feel these emotions without judgment is crucial for healing and resilience.
Reach out to your support network during times of loss. Surround yourself with loved ones who can provide comfort and understanding. Sharing your feelings and memories with others who have also experienced a loss can create a sense of belonging and support.
Additionally, consider seeking professional help from therapists or grief counselors who can guide you through the healing process.
Self-compassion is essential when building resilience. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding as you navigate the challenges of loss. Practice self-care activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul.
Engage in activities that bring you joy and provide solace, such as meditation, journaling, or engaging in creative outlets.
Embrace the Power of Gratitude:
Even in the midst of loss, cultivating gratitude can be a powerful tool for resilience. Reflect on the positive aspects of your life and express gratitude for the memories and experiences you shared with your loved one. Focusing on gratitude can help shift your perspective and foster a sense of hope and resilience.
Find Meaning and Purpose:
Seeking meaning and purpose can be transformative in the face of loss. Explore activities or causes that hold personal significance to you. Engaging in volunteer work or dedicating yourself to a meaningful project can provide a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
Finding ways to honor the memory of your loved one can also contribute to a sense of meaning and resilience.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and nonjudgmental in the present moment. Incorporating mindfulness into your life can help you navigate through the ups and downs of grief. By grounding yourself in the present, you can cultivate acceptance and self-awareness, which are crucial for building resilience.
Embrace the Healing Power of Time:
Healing takes time, and it’s important to be patient with yourself throughout the process. Understand that grief is not linear and that everyone’s journey is unique. Allow yourself to experience healing at your own pace and trust that with time, wounds will begin to mend, and resilience will grow.
Get The Help You Deserve
Building soulful resilience in the face of loss is a transformative process. By acknowledging your feelings, seeking support, practicing self-compassion, embracing gratitude, finding meaning and purpose, practicing mindfulness, and giving yourself time to heal, you can cultivate the strength needed to navigate through the challenges of loss.
Remember, resilience is not about forgetting or moving on from the loss, but rather about finding ways to honor and carry the memory of your loved one while building a new and resilient future. Sharon Tochinni, Ph.D is a resource that can guide you through the process of accepting loss.
They help you get through the pain of the process with professional assistance. Get in touch with them today!