Grief & Mourning With Migraine

I’ve written before about grief and how it has cascaded into migraines that would last at least a week and are so painful you question if it’s a brain bleed or a stroke.

There is a certain migraine that tends to come with grief - at least for me.

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg did for me

Friday, my idol and personal hero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed away after several bouts of cancer, serious health issues, and decades of breaking glass ceilings for the woman that surrounded her and came after her.

In “My Mental Health Migraine,” I never explained that Ruth and one of her books got me through a hospital stay that was then followed by a mind-bending migraine. But what she was able to do for me, personally, in my time of need will always be very special to me. In fact, I left that hospital stay and left my copy of the book for them so that they could be reminded every single day how different the world is for women now and how we can be better to one another.

A different kind of grief

I talked about grief then. But this weekend, my grief was different. I wasn’t able to cry. Though we knew that she was fragile, I think we all thought she was built of steel and would never leave us, especially before a major US election. I reread her books & statements and watched her movie. I continue to be moved and humbled every time I read something new - that shouldn’t surprise me, yet takes my breath away. She was truly a personal hero of mine, and I could feel the grief hanging over my shoulder, waiting for me to break down.

Grieving an American icon

It wasn’t until Sunday night when politics overtook Ruth's history, the things she was able to accomplish in her 87 years and years of service to the Supreme Court. But when the grief hit me, it hit strong and ugly. The minute I felt migraine symptoms onset was literally the minute I started to sob and truly grieve my American icon. I haven’t really stopped yet. I’m not sure when I will.

Grief and migraine

Grief is harder on those with migraine than other medical conditions sometimes because you try so hard to keep composure, symptoms start to begin to build up without you knowing or acknowledging it sometimes. We keep things in so when we cry and when we mourn, our headaches become migraines that last for days. Before you know it, you have a mind-bending migraine that took you completely out of nowhere.

How grief impacts an attack

Grief migraines aren’t typical migraines. Though they come when they want to and leave when they want to, it’s a set of symptoms like depression and lack of control that really gets under your skin. Everyone should be allowed to mourn in the ways that they want. But for those of us with complex migraines, the thoughts of letting everything go, crying it out - it usually doesn’t stop when you stop crying. We’re dehydrated easier, we’re weaker, and when you’re grieving, you go through bouts of hopelessness that you lost something to you that others may never understand.

The impact RBG had

Heroes and heroines like Ruth Bader Ginsburg are few and far between. Some will remember these icons written in our history books as people who personally paved the way for them. Ruth did that for women. Marty, her husband, stepped back from his career so that Ruth would be able to pave the way for us to do all of the things we’re able to do now.

Mourning and managing migraine

I will put my computer down and likely cry hard again after reaching the end of this article. I know the next few days for me will involve a lot of anger, frustration, and outbursts of crying. I don’t remember the last time I mourned someone in the ways I’m grieving Ruth, but I have my migraine medications out on the table and have already taken an abortive.

Be kind to yourself when grieving

Please remember to be kind to yourself. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and because of migraine, we can become more sensitive and even a little more vulnerable. I’m sure if it were up to Ruth, she would not want us to cry but to move on and continue her tradition of persisting and having a seat at the table where we all belong. Be kind to yourself, be kind to everyone you come across. We grieve in the dark and in the light. We grieve individually in unique ways. Be gentle with yourself.

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