Lisa Shulman M.D – The Neuroscience behind Loss and Grief

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Photo of Lisa Shulman

Lisa Shulman is a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland and the author or editor of numerous books on neurologic disorders, including Parkinson’s disease: A Complete Guide for Patients and Families.

Her specialism is Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, for which she has undertaken major research on how such disorders effect daily function and quality of life

Lisa is a Director of the University of Maryland Movement Disorders Center and serves on the Board of Directors of both the American Academy of Neurology and the American Brain Foundation.

In her recent book Before and After Loss (A Neurologist’s Perspective on Loss, Grief and Our Brain), Lisa documents the moving account of how she approached her late husband Bill’s death and the grief that followed, along with the effect that loss and grief has on the brain from a neurological point of view.  The book eloquently provides a road map of proven techniques for emotional restoration whilst examining the science behind the emotional trauma we experience when someone close to us dies.


Grief and Loss is a subject that most of us will encounter in our lives, many of us on multiple occasions. However for most of us it is something that is put away in a neat little box………. time is a great healer we are told.

Many of us experience trauma of many levels when experiencing a death of a loved one and we are not prepared for it. We have no point of reference for it or understanding of what is happening to our brains and bodies, other than to battle on.

Demystifying this process is such an important step as not only does it allow us to accept that what we are feeling is normal, but allows the deep healing qualities of restoration and growth to take root. We can still remember our loved ones but go onto lead the lives they would have wanted us to have. A life of joy, happiness and growth whilst still remembering them fondly.

In this interview Lisa and I discuss:

  • How losing her husband Bill to Cancer, focussed her own mind on how grief and loss effects the human brain from a Neurological perspective.
  • Lisa’s experience of grief and how it was not at all what she expected.
  • The emotional trauma that people suffer when experiencing the loss of a loved one and the true effect it has our identity.
  • The three different types of loss we experience 1. The loss of a loved one, 2. The loss of the relationship, 3. The loss of our identify as part of that relationship.
  • How we can compose a new life for ourselves.
  • Why people are not equipped to deal with the loss and grief on an emotional level.
  • How the trauma we experience during grief has the same effect on the brain as a number of other life changing events.
  • The many ways our mind and body respond to trauma to enable us to continue operating as human beings.
  • How it’s natural to want to avoid difficult emotions but why riding the waves of emotion path the way to restoration.
  • Why you should let go of guilt when your mind begins to recover from trauma.
  • How mindfulness is a powerful tool to re-connect to the emotions you are going through.
  • The power of journaling to process and review thoughts and supressed emotions.
  • The power of creative expression and allowing thoughts and emotions to come up in order to disarm their power.
  • How you can interact with friends or relatives who have lost somebody or are preparing to do so.
  • The healing and restorative effects of sleep and the power of dreams.

Stuff we mentioned during our conversation

John Hopkins University Press

Before and After Loss, A Neurologists Perspective on Loss, Grief and Our Brain – Lisa M.Shulman MD

The Untethered Soul – Michael A.Singer

The 4 Major Jungian Archetypes

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