Losing Focus: Lacking Concentration in Grief

Losing Focus“I feel like I’m going crazy…” It’s a phrase I have heard from so many grievers. It can be just this feeling that brings someone to a support group after the loss of a loved one. There are many signs and symptoms of early acute grief, but losing focus and lacking concentration in grief may very well be one of the most frustrating.

Why? Because we need to pay attention. To be productive at work, to remember the things on our to do list, to feel a part of what is happening in the world around us, we need to be able to concentrate and focus.

Prior to our loss we were doing this all day and every day, multi-tasking at home and at work. If we were lucky, we could remember every birthday and every special occasion. We not only managed our lives but had the ability to check in on the lives of those closest to us as well.

And then it happened. However it happened, whenever it happened- whether we had time to prepare or no time at all – our loved one died and suddenly everything around us changed. Including ourselves.

So just how much of an impact does losing focus have and is there anything we can do to feel better now?

When life was good, we probably took our ability to focus for granted. Every time we remembered to turn the stove off, every time we closed the garage door, every time we were able to find our keys or where we parked the car…

So losing the ability to focus and concentrate can be quite disorienting. But why does it happen and why is it such a common part of grieving?

Well, quite simply, the process of grieving is a full time job. And not a 40 hour a week job where we get nights and weekends off and we get a break or reprieve. Instead, it is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job with no time off, no vacation, and no place to escape. Grief is more demanding, more intrusive, and more exhausting than anything we’ve ever experienced before. To say it causes someone to be preoccupied would be an understatement because that would imply there actually is room left to think of anything other than the loss. And in the early days, there just isn’t. There isn’t any room left in our head or our hearts, and there is not one bit of energy left to focus on anything else.

There’s not a lot that can be done to change it, though being aware of it helps.

  • Know that right now you may need to write down everything, and I mean every last thing.
  • Get the help of friends and family. Be honest and tell them your head just isn’t where it used to be and as much as they can help remind you of special events, or even little things, that it will be much appreciated.
  • Try not to overbook yourself. Say “no” more than you did before. You need rest to be focused, and we already now how exhausting grief is and how hard sleep can be to come by. So do a little less now if you can.
  • Even if you were a great multi-tasker before, you’ll be better off now doing only one thing at a time. Stop when you can. Find yourself in the moment. Say things out loud (“I’m closing the garage door now”), slow down and take your time like you never have before.

And know that it will come back. If you were an avid reader before and now you can barely get through a magazine article without having to go back and reread what you’ve just read- know it will come back. If you could juggle your work schedule, your kids sports schedule, doctors appointments, vet appointments, and still remember to call your best friend on her birthday – know it will come back. If you had a special skill at work, or a hobby at home – something that took a time and focus that you’ve since lost- know that it will come back.

Tell yourself that. Remind those around you of that. Ask for patience. Be patient with yourself.

We don’t “get over” our losses. We never stop missing or loving the person who is gone. But these very harsh and acute side effects of grieving  tend to soften and fade with time. How much time? It could be months, it could be years. But being aware of the symptoms of grieving and taking care to ease these symptoms (as much as you’re able) should help ease some of the suffering they cause.

This is what other grievers are going through. You are not going crazy. You are grieving- and this is what grieving looks like.


It’ll take only a few minutes visiting our site to know that you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone. There are so many people suffering with a loss, and they come to www.griefincommon.com to find help and to be a help. Join today to meet others who understand.

12 thoughts on “Losing Focus: Lacking Concentration in Grief”

  1. This is very comforting, I recently lost a very dear friend of mine and I miss her so much that it actually brought back the grieving of my son that I lost 13 years ago. Not that I don’t grieve every day for him because I do. But it just made my grieving harder for all the losses I have had in my family and friends.

  2. We lost our son 11 months ago. I find that at work I can deal with reactive work easily, but anything future focussed like planning, especially if I have to initiate it, is very hard to do. Its not a general fog, its quite specific in my experience. Not sure how common this amongst others.

    1. Just a note to say that I feel you. I lost my brother in March and while certain things are easier to do now (like specific, reactive things), other tasks that require creativity and deeper thought are still very hard to manage and get motivated for.

  3. Thank you for this article. My husband died almost a year ago and, while improving, my focus just isn’t great, even though I’ve had great support and a long-standing meditation practice. I’m just starting to be able to read again, but not much and not for long. I hadn’t noticed lack of focus addressed in other articles before; it’s a comfort to find it’s “normal”.

    1. Reading your comment just lifted a huge boulder off my shoulders. My husband killed himself in May of 2017. I thought that I should be doing better by now. I could read for hours but now I have to go back and re-read most everyrhing now. I feel so much better!

      1. I am do sorry for your loss. I lost my husband if 32 yes to suicide 11 yrs ago. I still feel the pain and shock I did yearsI felt yrs ago. And then I found someone else to live and he died last June of Cancer. So now at times the stress is horrendous and I just drag around getting nothing done. I hope you have a lot if support. I do not. I feel that people are there at first but end up tiring of being around a sad person for very long. It’s a longly long journey

  4. I lost my husband on December 22,2016. It has been a struggle this past year, but to those who have recently lost a loved one, I must tell you it does get easier as time goes by. I can now look at his picture and smile without crying. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still grieving but it’s less now. I know where he is and he’s not in pain anymore and for this I am forever grateful…till death do us part♥️

  5. My Mother passed away on March 26, 2017. Prior to her death I was her only child in the area and was responsible for everything concerning her. She sick with cancer had to have two hip replacements and then the bacteria infections which took her life. Since then I can not focus at all. I am very forgetful. Sometimes just loss.

  6. my Lydia took her life 2 years ago January 20 2016. I will never get over it. it will never get softer. I will be out of this unbearable pain on the day my body gives out

  7. Thank you for the article, I just lost my wife on April 30th. I am an architect and Since her departure I seemed forgot how to think nor focus. I have been trying every day, I thought maybe focus on work may help not to think about her, but just could not, which made me even frightened.
    Now I understand This is a part of grieving, this helped me a lot.

    Thank you very much.

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