Did You Experience Widow’s/Widower’s Fog

I’m working on my new book about grief. Currently I am looking for something different to say about widow’s fog. Although it’s supposed to be universal, I never really experienced this grief-induced amnesia, dazedness, and fogginess that people say shrouded them after the death of a spouse or life mate, mostly because the things I did to help make sense of my grief were the very things that get rid of widow’s fog. The fog basically comes from an overloaded prefrontal cortex. Most people, when faced with the enormity of grief, try to suppress the emotions and think their way out, and this overloads their brains even more. But I didn’t. I just let everything flow. I’d walk for hours in the desert, feeling my grief, letting my mind wander without trying to think about anything in particular, and apparently, this “not thinking” is the very thing that reduces the overload. Also, telling ourselves the truth about what we feel and labeling our emotions help us through the fog, and that is what I did on this blog. Just being in the moment helps, and I did that, too.

Consequently, I have nothing really to say on the matter and no way to describe how it feels, and such a common part of grief should be included in my book. Did you experience this fog? If so, would you mind telling me about it? You can either leave your answer here as a comment or email me at pat@bertramsblog.com. If you have a scientific bent and can lend me your expertise, that, too, would be appreciated.

Oddly, I’d never even heard of this fog until a couple of years ago when I did a dance performance for a widows and widowers group. So maybe it’s not as universal as it’s supposed to be? If you didn’t experience it, I’d like to know that, too.

While I’m at it — what did you do to comfort yourself and relieve the stress of grief? I have written that chapter several times, and it never comes out right. I mean, how many times can I say I cried, and screamed, and beat up defenseless sofas? That’s not enough to fill a chapter.

(For those of you who are interested in what I’ve been up to and why I haven’t been blogging, this book is the reason. Lots of thinking, researching, writing.)


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

8 Responses to “Did You Experience Widow’s/Widower’s Fog”

  1. Holly Bonville Says:

    Hi Pat. No, I didn’t have the widow’s fog. But I read a lot. It was my way of escaping. I wasn’t working at the time and during my waking hours, if I wasn’t moving around, I had a book in front of me. Lots of online time too. Any kind of book, as long as it was readable. I’m still reading a lot, but not like I did the first few months.

  2. Toby Burnett Says:

    Dear Pat,
    My first month is somewhat lost in a fog, so to speak. I started keeping a journal, like you, only after 30 days. (And your grief book was extremely helpful to me, it became part of my morning ritual: read the entry for the current calendar day in “Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief” by Martha Hickman, and if there was one, the chronological day from your book. I see from my journal that I’ve referenced you a dozen times.) . Here is an entry from my day 34:

    “Each day is something to get through. I watch the clock for the next transition; lunch, happy hour, dinner, bed. Alcohol is welcome, but does not deaden the pain, maybe makes me more reflective. What does help is to involve myself in projects, some to clean up the house, make things easier for me. Like trip to Fred Meyer today to get a Keurig system.
    This can’t go on, clearly. I need to come to terms with my new single existence.”

    But I think that I can describe that month, as I can recall from 4 years ago, as a fog. I tried to cope by being away, staying with relatives or friends, just going through the motions of living, and, like you, walking a lot. It wasn’t until I started actually recording my thoughts that I see I was trying to understand what was happening to me, and try to find help. Coming to terms with it meant understanding my state. Your “Grief: the Great Yearning” helped a lot on an emotional level, basically validating my anguish, and I think that it I had had your new one, it would have put it in a more intellectual framework. I hope you include something of that Feb. 20, 2013 essay involving Joseph Campbell’s. hero’s journey, which I completely loved, wish I had found it earlier than two years into my journey.
    A final note: I was starved for information about my plight, and only found you when I Googled “grief turning point” to discover this blog, and of course the book. Rereading that post now, I see that you suggested that four years is such a thing. That does not apply to me, I’m certainly in Campbell’s stage 12, but there is no actual finality. I’ve happily adjusted to a new life, with a new partner, but I still get triggered from time to time, sometimes with tears.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Hi, Toby. I don’t think there is any closure or finality when it comes to grief. How can there be? Our loved ones are still gone.

      How funny that you should mention the mythic stages of grief. I just read that the other day and was quite amazed how it’s a much better timeline for grief than anything else I’ve read. So yes!! I will be including it. Thank you for the suggestion.

      And thank you for the comments. Do you mind if I quote you for the book? I am just using first names.

      Thank you, too for letting me know that you’re happily adjusted to a new life. It does my heart good.

  3. Aggie Tracy Says:

    Actually, three plus years into this journey I still have this fog somewhat,
    I did embrace the grief and did feel it. There would have been no way to do anything else for me. I cried constantly and still do on a daily basis!
    I am a very patterned type person. When my husband was alive I did certain things everyday. I had a routine.
    So after he passed I just could not get a routine going and felt at odds with everything. I would start doing one thing, then on to another before finishing the first. I would leave cupboard doors open, walk upstairs, and not sure what for.
    I am doing somewhat better, but not sure I will ever get there. I write lots of sticky notes to remember things, which helps.
    You can’t be married and have routines for 50 years, then be thrown into a virtual chaotic state without feeling totally lost yourself.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      At three years, we are still on the upward slope of grief, still trying to get through the days. It’s amazing that it lasts so long. It’s even more amazing that any of us actually find some sort of renewal, because logically, the longer they are gone, the worse it should be. Thanks for your comment. If you don’t mind, I would like to use it for the book. Thank you!

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