Saturday Morning Message: Coping with Lack of Concentration

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

This week's message centers around understanding the loss of concentration when grieving and the strategies other survivors use to cope. One thing that helped me was to buy a package of sticky notes. I put one task for the day on each individual note. Then I laid them on the kitchen counter in the order they needed to be done. When I finished one, I threw it away or put it in the recycling box. I liked this system because I could change the order quickly. If I didn't finish a task, I just put it at the front of the next day's  stack.

Man in Fog

I still use a small notebook to list the important tasks of the day. I check off each as it is completed, and that keeps me on track. An important thing to remember is that lack of concentration is something common in all grievers.

A previous article in the TAPS Magazine  called "The Fog of Grief: When Will It Lift?," by Betsy Beard, surviving mom of Spc. Bradley S. Beard, includes thoughts from many different survivors on this topic. In the article, there is a short list of strategies to "remind yourself that your brain fog is normal for your situation."

The strategies include:

  • Lower your expectations of what you can accomplish these days.
  • Divide tasks into smaller increments and adjust your goals.
  • Give yourself extra time for getting ready for events.
  • Start slowly to rebuild a daily routine that will give you new habits.
  • Review your lists at the beginning of the day and as often as needed.
  • Above all, be patient with yourself.

I hope this article, along with the creative suggestions sent in by survivors this week, will help with your concentration. Remember to choose an approach you like. These are just suggestions.

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.

Hugs,
Carol

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

It is always interesting to share memories of  our loved ones, and we haven't had a question related to that for quite a while, so the question this week is: Did your loved one have a knack for doing something?  I look forward to reading your replies.

Song for the Week

Since Ginny, mother of Patrick, sent in the question about concentration, I thought it would be appropriate to share the song she sent, which is "You Should Be Here" by Cole Swindell. Ginny shared why this song is meaningful to her, "There are so many times I had wished Pat could have been with us for special events. So many things I wish I could share with him. Pat was famous for his 'rants,' his wild commentary on life!  As crazy as the world is now, I would love to hear what he would have said. He was always so politically incorrect, so irreverent, often times shocking, but at the same time so funny, logical and usually right! How I miss those rants!"

Answers from Survivors

From Merry, mother of Wes:  Looking back over the last three and a half years, bringing back memory and the ability to concentrate is really a long, rough road. Starting my grief process, it was all about getting through my day, contacting at least one friend daily just to check in, maybe going grocery shopping, going to church if it was Sunday or to choir practice on a weekday evening and then to Daughters of the American Revolution meetings once a month. My routine was very limited and very small. I'm just about to throw away the loveseat on which I spent the first year sitting, sleeping and eating. It's a disaster.

I would love to see a study on the brain and if scans would show a "shutting down" of parts of the brain so the mind can remain safe and then begin to heal. Unfortunately, one would have to begin that study in the throes of deep, deep grief.  

In the past six months, I have begun to create clothing again in my sewing studio. My mind can grasp what I want to do and not get exhausted in one hour, and now I can be creative for four to six hours. I'm beginning to "see" what needs to be done in my house to give it the TLC it has not had for three years and to throw out, store, give away or continue to use items that have collected dust.  

Yesterday, I was sitting on my patio in the sun, for the 10 minutes-per-day routine, and I was thinking that, yes, I do remember this horrendous event of losing Wes - how I was informed, how very sad it continues to be - but yet somehow I've moved into , not moved on to , interests that take me into my life before I lost him. The expression "moving on" suggests we forget our loved ones. Not so. We can never forget. We just, by God's grace and a lot of hard work, pass into a new path of surviving life and facing all of it. It is scary at times, very scary.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff:  Do only one thing at a time. Don't believe in multitasking. It means starting a bunch of things and not finishing anything. It also adds panic and stress to me. Do a monthly list of bills that need to be paid and things that regularly need to be done. Then I put the dates that I do them beside each item. Use a real calendar with squares to write appointments or other things with times on there. Also, use the TV for sound in the house. Quiet makes doing things harder for me.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene:  Allow yourself the idea that some days it is difficult to concentrate when you have thoughts of your loved one. This is going to sound way out there, but I find, for me, it works. Have a conversation with your loved one explaining you have to get xyz done and you will get back with them later. Do whatever, even if it is a full day at work. When you have quiet time, let them back in your head.  

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277.