The Brain That Changes Itself

The day Lochlan was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, I jumped into action and ordered four books about the brain and/or cerebral palsy. This was over five years ago. One of those books was all about neuroplasticity and how the brain can heal itself. This, of course, was of great interest because Lochlan had been given ever doom and gloom prediction from his medical team. Lochlan had bilateral grade 4 brain bleeds and his future was very uncertain. One of those books was written by Norman Doidge, M.D. and titled, The Brain that Changes Itself. For every reason under the sun, I didn’t even crack this book until last month. To my surprise, I began learning as much about my brain as I was learning about Lochlan’s.

After the twins’ birth, it took several years for me to understand that not only was it okay to grieve the birth I thought I would have, but to also understand that I, in fact, had a right to grieve. This misunderstanding was because I thought my twins survival meant that there was nothing to grieve. I was very wrong.

The Brain that Changes Itself quickly resonated with me because of what it had to say about grief. The particular passage that stopped me in my tracks was directly about grief in a neurological way. In this chapter, the author talks about how the brain is effected when someone’s partner dies. He explains that our brain’s are hardwired to expect our loved one to be there and, when they are not, the brain must go through an entire process to rewire itself. The brain must also “grieve” in order to learn that it can no longer depend on a significant other who has passed. (The passage in reference is the image to the right.)

With my specific experience, it has made me come to realize that us women are also hardwired to expect our birth and our children to be a certain way. We develop with the expectation that our child will be healthy and typical. When this does not happen, there is an entire re-wiring that has to happen. The way to do this is by grieving, but in order to grieve, we must first understand and accept that we have a right to grieve.

In grief, we learn to live without the one we love, but the reason this lesson is so hard is that we first must unlearn the idea that the person exists and can still be relied on.
— Norman Doidge, M.D.
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