Published May 2022 on YouTube

The Science & Process of Healing from Grief | Huberman Lab Podcast #74

1. Grief & Bereavement

Andrew teaches about the neuroscience and psychology of grief, including the three dimensions of space, time, and closeness that establish close bonds with people. He also debunks myths about the stages of grief and emphasizes the importance of showing up to grief in a healthy psychological and biological state. Through scientific information and tools, listeners can navigate through the process of grief.

2. Eight Sleep, InsideTracker, ROKA

Sleep and Health:Andrew shares insights on how temperature regulation affects sleep and how Eight Sleep's mattress cover has helped him improve his sleep. He also talks about the importance of regular blood work and how InsideTracker's personalized nutrition platform can help people better understand their body and reach their health goals.
Personalized Health Solutions:Andrew discusses two products that offer personalized solutions for health and eyewear. InsideTracker provides personalized health recommendations based on blood tests, while ROKA offers high-quality eyeglasses and sunglasses that are versatile and lightweight. Listeners can get discounts on both products by using the codes provided.

3. Understanding Grief

Andrew explains that grief is a distinct psychological and physiological event in the brain and body from depression. He teaches about grief as a motivational process, which is the way that scientists and psychologists now conceptualize grief, and the treatments for grief, so that people can move through them effectively.

4. Myths of Grief

Andrew discusses the common misconceptions surrounding grief, specifically the five stages of grief as defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. While her work was groundbreaking, modern science shows that not everyone experiences all stages in a linear manner, and there are many other factors that come into play.

5. Grief: Lack & Motivation, Dopamine

Understanding Grief:Andrew explains that grief is not just a state of sadness, but rather a motivational state and a desire for something specific. Brain imaging studies show that the brain areas associated with motivation and pursuit are activated in states of grief.
Understanding Grief:Andrew Huberman discusses a neuroscience perspective on grief, highlighting that grief is not just about sadness but also a state of desire and reaching for something. He explains how the involvement of dopamine puts us into an anticipatory state, a state of waiting for something to happen, and how attachments and the breaking of attachments in healthy ways are governed by three important dimensions.

6. Three Dimensions of Relationships

Three Dimensions of Relationships:Andrew explains the three dimensions of relating to someone or something: space, time, and closeness. By understanding these dimensions, we can better navigate the grieving process and move through it more effectively. He also shares an experiment that was done to evaluate brain activity in different areas when people see images of things at different distances from one another.
Brain's Unique Tuning:Andrew Huberman discusses an experiment where they identified a unique brain area that is activated by changes in physical spacing of objects, time spacing of sounds, and emotional distance between people. This brain area is called the inferior parietal lobule and is responsible for perception.

7. Tool: Remapping Relationships

Moving Through Grief:Andrew explains how our emotional closeness to people is intertwined with our map of where they are in physical space and time. Our ability to locate someone is a prediction of the requirements to engage in the attachment.
Mapping Relationships:Andrew explains how relationships are mapped in the brain and body through space, time, and closeness. He discusses how the loss of someone or something we are deeply attached to can reorder this map due to the conscious recollection of episodic memories.
Understanding Grief:Andrew explains how grief is the process of uncoupling and untangling our attachment to someone or something. He discusses how our brain continues to make predictions about their location and how this can lead to feelings of disorientation.

8. Feynman's Grief

Feynman's Grief:Andrew shares the story of Richard Feynman's profound grief and inability to reconcile the logical and emotional worlds after the death of his first wife, Arline. Through reading a letter Feynman wrote to Arline, Andrew highlights insights about navigating grief and the dissociation between reality and emotional attachment.
Dimensions of Attachment:Andrew Huberman shares a love letter that encapsulates the three dimensions of attachment and grief: space, time, and closeness. Despite understanding that his wife is dead, he maintains an immense attachment to her and feels her as very real, yet he doesn't know where to find her. The letter beautifully illustrates how in grief, we maintain a sense of closeness, but we have to uncouple it from the dimensions of space and time.

9. Moving Through Grief

Andrew explains how the brain reacts to losing someone and why it's normal to expect them to still be there. He also discusses the process of remapping and how it can help individuals move through grief without undermining the intensity of their emotional attachment to the person.

10. Moving Through Grief

Andrew explains how the brain processes grief and why it's difficult to move on from the loss of a loved one. He discusses how memories persist and generate expectations, even if we know they're irrational. Understanding the three dimensions of relationships and attachment can help us move through the grieving process in a more effective way.

11. Moving Through Grief

Moving Through Grief:Andrew shares tools for moving through grief, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and maintaining attachment to a person or thing while uncoupling it from memories of space and time. He stresses that efforts to reduce the intensity of attachment are unnecessary and that it's essential to make predictions and understand how to engage with that attachment without the expectation that things will happen again.
Coping with Grief:Andrew shares a tool to cope with grief by setting aside dedicated time to feel deeply into your attachment to the person, animal, or thing. He advises to prevent yourself from thinking about counterfactuals and focus on the present. This can be emotionally and physically challenging, but immensely beneficial in the journey from the initial shock of loss to holding the memory of the person or thing in a way that still allows us to feel the depth and fullness of connection to them.
Phantom Limbs of Grief:Andrew discusses how grief can be like a phantom limb, where people can feel the presence of someone who has passed away. He explains that the sensation of being touched on the back of the neck or the feeling of attachment to someone, an animal, or a thing is very much like a phantom limb, only it exists in the emotional space. Andrew also talks about how the process of moving through grief involves maintaining the attachment but uncoupling that attachment from the space and time representation of that person, animal, or thing.

12. Moving Through Grief

Andrew discusses the importance of having a representation of where a person, animal, or thing is after death in order to move through grief. He explains that while it is hard, it is the most adaptive way to deal with grief and shares insights on the neuroscience behind it.

13. Mapping Emotional Attachments

Grief and Hippocampus:Andrew explains the different cell types in the hippocampus and their roles in the grief process. Place cells and proximity cells fire when we enter familiar locations or are in expected proximity of objects.
Mapping Emotional Attachments:Andrew explains how neurons map our emotional attachments and how trace cells become active after the loss of a loved one, revealing the absence of something. These trace cells are closely associated with neurons that tell us where things ought to be.

14. Understanding Grief

Understanding Grief:Andrew discusses the different ways people experience grief and how oxytocin plays a role in the grieving process based on animal models such as prairie voles. He also emphasizes that we never really know how other people feel and that describing our own emotions can be challenging.
Prairie Vole Bonds:Andrew explains how prairie voles, specifically monogamous ones, have taught us a lot about grief and attachment. The monogamous prairie voles will work very hard to get back to their mate, while the non-monogamous prairie voles won't work as hard to access a prairie vole partner.
Oxytocin and Attachment:Andrew explains how oxytocin receptors in the brain are associated with attachment and reward pathways. He discusses how this is seen in monogamous prairie voles and humans who experience intense grief. He also sheds light on why some people move through grief more quickly than others.

15. Moving Through Grief

Moving Through Grief:Andrew discusses the different categories of grief and how people move through it at different rates. He also mentions a study by Mary-Frances O'Connor on catecholamines and their role in complicated grief outcomes. Listeners can contribute to the study by answering questionnaires provided on O'Connor's webpage.
Coping with Grief:Andrew discusses how people with high levels of adrenaline are more likely to experience complicated grief symptoms and how reducing adrenaline levels can help in healthy grieving. He also highlights the difference between depression and grieving, and how catecholamine levels can affect the ability to benefit from psychotherapy.

16. Sentimental Attachment to Objects

Andrew discusses how grieving the loss of a person, animal, or thing is a natural process that we all experience. While the loss of a thing may not hold the same magnitude as the loss of a being, it can still feel significant and invoke the grieving process. It's important to understand that sentimental attachments to objects are valid and can represent relationships with people.

17. Attachment and Grieving

Andrew discusses the dimensionalities of attachment and grieving, and how it can affect the rate at which people move on from a loss. He depathologizes some of the observations and speculates on the capacity for attachment overall.

18. Building Vagal Tone

Grieving and Emotional Disclosure:Andrew explores the idea that allowing ourselves to feel attachment to someone can support adaptive transitioning through grief. He discusses a study that explored the effectiveness of written emotional disclosure in the grieving process and the role of vagal tone in calming our brain and body.
Breathing and Heart Rate:Andrew explains how inhaling speeds up the heart rate while exhaling slows it down through the vagus nerve. He also discusses how respiratory sinus arrhythmia can be trained to improve vagal tone, which can help control stress and alertness.
Building Vagal Tone:Andrew explains the concept of vagal tone and how it can be built up through long exhale breathing. He discusses a study where participants went through a writing exercise to help cope with grief and how it positively impacted their vagal tone.
Writing for Grief:Andrew discusses a study that explores the benefits of writing for grief. While the initial results showed no difference between emotionally intense writing and non-emotionally intense writing, further analysis revealed that individuals with higher vagal tone were able to access more real somatic feelings of attachment and benefited more from the exercise. Writing about the attachment and experiencing the bodily and mind states associated with it can be powerful for moving through grief.
Mind-Body Connection:Andrew discusses how the mind-body connection plays a role in grieving and how increasing vagal tone can help individuals access feelings of attachment and move through grief in a healthier way. He also touches on the importance of anchoring to attachment while disengaging from episodic memory.

19. Grief Tools

Tools for Grief:Andrew discusses the importance of maintaining healthy physiology while grieving and offers tools to support healthy transitioning through grief. He emphasizes the significance of good sleep hygiene and the role of cortisol in our diurnal patterns.
Cortisol and Grief:Andrew discusses the relationship between cortisol rhythms and complicated grief, and how establishing a normal pattern of cortisol through adequate sleep can be important for navigating the grief process.

20. Tool: Improving Sleep & Grieving

Sunlight and Sleep:Andrew emphasizes the importance of viewing sunlight in the morning to establish a cortisol rhythm, which is immensely beneficial for regulating sleep and wakefulness during the day. He explains the proper way to do this and its effectiveness, especially for those who struggle with sleep.
Grieving and Sleep:Andrew explains the importance of proper sleep in navigating the grieving process. Sufficient duration and quality of sleep at night is the way to engage neuroplasticity, the reordering of neural connections, and everything we've been talking about today about reordering the maps in your mind. Regulating your cortisol rhythm through viewing sunlight early in the day, and avoiding bright lights from artificial sources in the evening, can help set an overall autonomic landscape that allows you to sleep and get neuroplasticity, sleep and be in the best emotional state to navigate the grieving process.

21. Coping with Grief

Moving Through Grief:Andrew Huberman discusses the tools for healthy grieving, including dedicating time for rational grieving and anchoring to the depth of attachment. He explains the neural components of grief and why it can be so painful, emphasizing the importance of understanding and accepting the new reality.
Mastering Neuroplasticity:Andrew discusses the importance of quality sleep for triggering neuroplasticity and how non-sleep deep rest can accelerate the rewiring of connections in the brain. He also shares short behavioral protocols that can be practiced multiple times throughout the day to enhance neuroplasticity.
Coping with Grief:Andrew discusses how we can prepare ourselves to grieve more adaptively by regulating our nervous system and increasing vagal tone through tools found in neuroscience and psychology. He emphasizes the importance of embracing the grieving process and seeking support from trained professionals.

22. Support, Supplements, and Social Media

Andrew shares ways to support the podcast, including subscribing on various platforms and leaving reviews. He also discusses high-quality single-ingredient supplements and their benefits, as well as where to find them. Lastly, he invites listeners to follow him on social media and sign up for the Neural Network Newsletter for useful summaries and takeaway tools.