Making Peace with Grief

Making Peace with Grief: Achieving “Temporal Integration

If you are grieving, trying to make sense about life…and death…is probably frequently on your mind.  It was on my mind when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, throughout his treatment, and still continues long after his death.

Recently, I’ve come across some science on brain health that helped me to understand my grieving process better.

Instinctually, the threat of death (your own or others) can bring up the need to control.  This is natural: our brain is wired to seek permanence and continuity.  It’s why when we blink, our mind makes it seem like one steady flow, even though it’s NOT.

Yet, besides this instinct, another part of our our brain allows us to contemplate the meaning of death (and life).  This part of the brain, primarily located in the prefrontal cortex, deals with more complex reasoning including morality and empathy.


Dr. Daniel Siegel names nine domains of integration as part of his definition of  optimal mental health.  (See chart at the bottom of this page.)  One of these domains, known as “temporal integration,” is the integration of the two very different brain functions that I just mentioned.  Essentially, temporal integration is a coming to peace with the fact that we all want and need certainty yet we also must acknowledge that everything dies.

To mature and reach our full potential, we must learn to live with the inherent uncertainty of being alive.   When I’ve co-facilitated grief groups in the past, Mona Taylor, LCSW, has a sentence that to me, represents the thought of a person who is grappling to attain integration:  “I am learning to be a vulnerable person in an unpredictable world.”

I’ll end with an appropriate quote by Pema Chodron:

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”


By cultivating all nine domains of integration including temporal integration, we are better able to “let there be room for all of this to happen.”


*More information about the Nine Domains of Integration are in my new book, “The Neuroscience of Dating




Questions? Contact me at

HeidiCrockett at

*** “control” photo credit to faramarz

***”Share your happiness with others” fortune cookie photo credit to Tim Ebbs

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