One of the most trying periods of an individual’s timeline: progressing with one’s own life after the loss of a mother or mother figure. There seem to be no words to express the heartbreaking experience one endures – one must simply encounter such a loss to understand the infinite amount of suffering that remains with you.
Losing a mother changes an individual both psychologically and biologically. On the blog for Doctor On Demand, which connects patients with doctors, psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi writes that the death of a parent is expected, and there is time to prepare for the loss as they grow in age. However, when death is unexpected, one may remain in the denial and anger phases of the loss for a prolonged period of time. This can lead to a diagnosis of major depressive disorder or even post-traumatic stress disorder, if trauma is involved. The following are possible.
A research study focusing on the “Neuroanatomy of Grief” explains the reasoning for possible physiological changes. The parts of the brain called the frontal cortex, cerebellum, and posterior cingulate cortex enable grief processing. They are involved in retrieving memories and dwelling on the past. Ironically enough, they are also involved in sleep and appetite regulation. This provides some explanation pertaining to biological responses to grief and loss. A clinical social worker from Omaha, Jumoke Omojola, lists the physiological changes: headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, tightness in the chest, too much sleep, too little sleep, overeating, or lack of appetite.
A 2008 research study pertaining to unresolved grief concluded that attempting to dismiss grief puts an individual at risk of long-term fatal conditions, increased health service use, and increased sick leave. An activated sympathetic nervous system, (fight or flight response), causes cellular dysregulation, which is how cancerous cells can form.
“What if I started helping my mother earlier?” “Did she pass away because I failed when caring for her?” “There are things I should’ve done better.” These common internal questions and comments are not healthy. Guilt is expected to experience, but when it persists for a prolonged period of time, it begins to negatively affect our lifestyle.
Self – Destruction
Not all individuals cope with grief in the same fashion. Some people may blame themselves to such an intense degree that they start to become self-destructive with their habits and behaviors. “If my mother suffered in pain, shouldn’t I?” Thoughts like these can become overwhelming and can cause someone to engage in harmful behavior.
For the first time, you experience a sadness like no other. No activity, friends, or other distractions seem to lift your spirits. You are engulfed entirely and cannot break away from this hovering emotion. This can potentially lead to depression/suicidal thoughts.