Over the past couple months Daniel has been catching up on some of the latest Marvel movies. He mentioned something about Captain Marvel. I literally did not recognize that name. It sounded like a completely new superhero to me. No image popped in my brain. He saw the blank in my face. “You don’t remember Captain Marvel either, do you?” He explained that we went to see the Captain Marvel movie in theaters but he hardly remembered it. Suddenly the image of Bree Larson came of mind. I responded, “Oh yeah I very vaguely remember that.” I couldn’t tell you what it was about at all. We looked it up; it came out March 2019. That was probably the first movie we saw after Ginny died.
That is not the only memory that is super fuzzy around the time of our loss. I have vivid memories of hearing the news, delivering Ginny’s body, and some moments in the days before and after, but generally the year surrounding Ginny’s death is kind of a blur. From the beginning, it was obvious our brains weren’t working normally. Short term memory, concentration, and some basic skills and logic were lacking. It felt impossible to focus. Tasks that used to be easy took a ton of effort and were exhausting. I’m so glad I didn’t have to go back to work as an engineer because I’m not sure I could’ve done it.
I felt for Daniel because he did quickly have to return to work in the lab. He would come home and tell me how he felt he was not at full capacity. It became difficult to follow along as grad students explained their problems. He struggled to give advice that would’ve been second nature before. It took twice the effort to get half as much done. He worked so so hard and quickly grew tired, but he persevered and had a very productive year scientifically. I’m not sure any of his coworkers noticed how much effort it took or if he even remembers all he did, but I admired his determination.
Since then, I’ve learned that being forgetful and having difficulty focusing are very normal after a traumatic event. I’ve read that our brains automatically change when we experience trauma. These changes make it harder to store memories and to use the portions of our brains in charge of reason and concentration. I don’t know much about this, but I’d like to learn more.
My memory and focus have definitely improved since the early days of grief, but I still don’t think my brain is functioning the way it did before. I’m not sure if it ever will. And I sometimes wonder what other memories I might have forgotten. Have I forgotten any special moments during my pregnancy with Ginny? I want to remember all the time I had with her. I also want to be sure to remember all the love and support we received from family and friends after our loss. I’m happy that I kept all the cards and I journaled so much during those days. I can look back and remember what might have otherwise been forgotten.
If you’ve experienced memory loss or feel your brain isn’t working at 100% after trauma, please know you are not alone. It is hard not to feel as sharp as you once were, but please give yourself loads of grace.