Are you experiencing signs of anxiety and grief after losing a close friend or family member? Regardless of what we may think beforehand, none of us knows how we’ll handle the passing of a loved one until it happens. Imagining what it may be like and how it actually plays out are often many miles apart.
Our response to such heartache may surprise those around us, but it also surprises us. All types of powerful emotions like despair, fear, worry, and anger show up, and sometimes when we least expect them. And, unfortunately, anxiety and the grief process can be really tough to handle at times.
In his “Psychology Today” article entitled Bereavement Anxiety, Jason Spendelow Ph.D. shares the following:
“Mourning the loss of a loved one often involves unpredictable waves of intense emotion. One of the many difficult feelings to grapple with is anxiety. This emotion is a natural part of the grieving process and represents activation of the body’s alarm (fight or flight) system.”
The trouble is that ongoing high anxiety levels while grieving can become unmanageable. If you’re feeling this way after a significant loss, here are some thoughts on dealing with grief and anxiety.
Remind Yourself that Your Bereavement Anxiety is Normal
Why should you tell yourself this? Because experiencing anxiety with grief is totally inevitable. Your anxiety may not feel normal compared to much of your previous life, but it is a guaranteed aspect of bereavement. Telling yourself there is something wrong with you for feeling so anxious during grief only increases your worry, fear, and anxiety.
It’s like telling yourself something is wrong with you because you get hungry or because you have the urge to fall asleep when you’re tired. So, as bad as these times can feel, admit that it’s OK to feel anxious. This will help your body and mind to calm down.
The last thing you need is to be overly critical or judgmental of your grief process. Also, remind yourself that all the unknown fears will eventually become less anxiety-provoking.
Find Others Who Understand How You’re Feeling
No person grieves in the same exact way. And no one can comprehend what you have lost. Only you intimately know the sum total of that. This is why it’s good to refrain from saying things to grieving people like, “I know exactly how you feel.” Even someone who has gone through grief won’t understand the exact depths of your pain. There is no person in the world like the one you lost—no adequate “replacement.”
At the same time, there are some individuals out there who will understand your grief on a far deeper level than most. It will do you a lot of good to find these people. Ones who won’t judge you for how you’re feeling because they know how bad grief can hurt.
You’ll be able to discuss these hurts without the fear of judgment or lack of compassion. Part of discovering how to deal with grief is being told you’re not “crazy” for feeling like you do. You’re only a badly hurting person who needs time to heal. It will help you immensely to be understood on a deep level when it’s hard for even you to understand yourself at times.
Challenging Yourself to Do What You Most Fear
Coping with grief can be a struggle because certain people, places, or experiences can trigger reminders of who you lost. As a result, the natural response for many is to avoid whatever experiences lead to that strong grief reaction.
This is an entirely understandable response and can be a meaningful way to protect yourself at the outset of grief if not taken too far. One of the challenges of avoiding reminders of your loss can be a diminished life quality if you avoid certain aspects of life for too long.
Ideally, you’ll want to gradually return to activities or experiences you initially avoided. It can be pretty empowering when you once again return to previous grief triggers, but you’re able to handle them OK. It gives you tangible proof that you’re healing. Yes, a part of you will always miss your loved one, but you’ll see a path forward that isn’t nearly as painful as it once was.
Consider Counseling for Your Grief Anxiety
All people who lose a close friend or family member experience anxiety. And everyone will notice ways that anxiety makes it harder for them to live the way they would like.
However, if you’re struggling with how to deal with anxiety to the point it’s regularly harming your life’s quality, it could be wise to see a professional grief therapist.
Some who grieve deeply develop severe and chronic anxiety. This can lead to various life interruptions or an anxiety disorder. Through counseling, you’ll find ways to handle your anxiety better and have a valuable confidential professional to talk with about how your grief affects you and what to do about it.
Are You Struggling with Anxiety and Grief? Grief Therapy Can Help
If you’re going through grief and anxiety, you shouldn’t have to wrestle with this alone. The Orange County Relationship Center can assist you with how to calm anxiety related to grief. If you’d like to learn more about how a grief counselor can assist you, please get in touch with us. You are also welcome to schedule an appointment.