Why the death of people who we even don’t know can hurt us so much?
We can feel the pain of grief when tragedy hits celebrities.
It’s so strange about how our brains process the way we feel about famous people. When we see famous people, we admire them on television, at a sporting event, or a concert. Our brains can register it as a real friendship. That’s why, when tragedy strikes, we can experience profound grief, as if a loved one died.
The recent example is when the Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant died in helicopter crash together with his daughter “Gigi” and seven other people.
My presentation will try to explain some facts about life when we experience the death of people we know, or the death of celebrities, people who we don’t know.
The very first question is: What grief does to the brain?
The unspeakable loss of a loved one fires up the limbic system.
The limbic system includes the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and cingulate gyrus.
The amygdala is the emotion center of the brain. At the same time, the hippocampus plays an essential role in the formation of new memories about past experiences.
When we talk about the limbic system, we think primarily about the amygdala, the almond-shaped structure on the inside of temporal lobes involved in emotional reactions.
When the amygdala remains overactive, it can impair the ability to get past the pain. The grief we feel can become part of the story of our lives, the way we view ourselves and our place in this world.
For some people, these stories can rob joy, hold back, and lead to depression, can drive anxiety, anger, irrational behavior, and automatic adverse reactions.
Unless you recognize and consciously calm and protect your amygdala from over-firing, the amygdala will haunt your unconscious mind and drive emotional pain for the rest of your life.
How to support the healing process of grief?
1. Start with the healing process as soon as possible. People may tell you to wait to heal from grief; this is wrong.
If you fell and broke your arm, when would you want to start healing? Immediately, of course!
2. Keep a brain-healthy routine. Again, some people wrongly believe like they need time to come back to the method of their life. No, start with your daily routine as soon as possible. Dwelling on the negative feelings will only prolong the pain. This is often the missing link in grief recovery.
3. Reach out for social support. Therapy and support groups can be helpful if they help you build skills to overcome grief.
4. When pain is prolonged or becomes complicated, get professional help. In more vulnerable people, grief can trigger a depressive episode.