Watch out for Fear. She is overly friendly and desperately wants to be your best friend. It is amazing how she juggles all those relationships, but somehow she does it. She can effortlessly seize your every thought, blurring reality.
Fear has a huge wardrobe and loves to dress in disguise, so it can be really difficult to recognize her. When one is mourning a loss, Fear usually takes center-stage, but is sometimes incognito, so you may not know it is her. She clings to worry, enjoys imagining unlikely scenarios, and perseverates about the worst outcomes.
When Fear enters your home, she likes to sit in the living room, take the best seat, and settle in. If you are not careful she will stay so long that you just avoid this room and end up losing the peace of your safe, beautiful space. Fear really does her job well, but don’t let her get too comfortable.
If she does visit you, try to see Fear for what she is and accept what she is trying to tell you because her messages can be legitimate and hold the path forward.
It is normal to experience some fear when someone we love dies. The nature and severity of our fear is apropos to the circumstances of death and our relationship to the deceased. In the case of a young person’s death, their peers often express fear as insomnia or clinginess. When the head of household dies, family members understandably fear for their future welfare. Often when a person in a nursing home dies, the residents get anxious, fearing they will be next. In the case of unexpected death, whether or not we knew the deceased, we may experience a subtle anxiety, fearing the fragility of life.
Familiar manifestations of grief-associated fear include excessive concern about the future, an overactive imagination posing outcomes with no basis in fact, addiction to the what if game, and a tenacious sense of impending doom. It is important to distinguish your actual feeling. A careful appraisal of your inner thoughts and feelings can determine the amount of attention your fears should be given. Is it a generalized or specific fear? Is it a valid warning or overactive emotional response without factual basis?
There are lots of ways to soothe your fears, such as talking to a trusted friend, writing, or taking “a thought walk” in a peaceful setting having an internal dialogue. There are as many ways to cope with fear as there are fears, you will know what calms and comforts you. A good way to react to excessive fear is to breathe through panic. There are some good YouTube videos demonstrating effective breathing techniques. Examining the evidence of a “worst case scenario” can help diminish unrealistic fears. Some people find that imagining the worst alleviates worry because it helps them realize that more often than not, their worst fears are either impossible or not likely. For others, playing out the situation in their mind only exacerbates the fear. You know yourself, trust your approach.
It is also perfectly okay to “go to your happy place”. This can be geographic change, meditating on a piece of art or listening to a comforting piece of music. It could be watching a comedic movie, taking a canoe ride or going to dinner with a friend. Going to your happy place, relieves stress and gives you a respite from fear.
Suppressing fear by ignoring it, moves it deeper and it is sure to resurface stronger. Hard as it is to face our fears, the Wizard of Oz gave great advice to the cowardly lion, “Back where I come from we have men who are called heroes. Once a year they take their fortitude out of mothballs and they parade it down the main street.” Parading your inner fortitude is a great strategy for facing fear.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed