We’ve all heard about grief – the feelings which follow a bereavement or loss. The death of someone, the end of a relationship, a huge change in lifestyle. . . Grief can come from many things. You’ve likely also heard about anxiety, you may even experience it yourself, the tightness in your chest, the constant struggle to complete tasks that others find easy. But have you realised that grief and anxiety can be and often are, linked?
One common reaction to bereavement is developing anxiety and especially social anxiety. Difficulty attending social engagements, no matter how small. Feelings of fear when you walk into a crowded shop. Trying to find reasons not to go anywhere that may be busy.
Grief induced anxiety can creep up on you and be very unexpected. I certainly didn’t expect it to be one of the things I would experience as a by product of my grief. Yet start looking into the grief cycle, reading articles about grief and it becomes apparent this is incredibly common. I have seen it not only in myself but also in others.
Grief does strange things to us. It can shake the foundations of what you thought was certain, stable, unshakeable. It can make you question everything around you. Grief can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, to concentrate on the simplest of things and so you find that you go from just feeling the anger, sadness, loneliness that can come with grief to feeling that you are uneasy about going out and doing things, about making a telephone call, taking a parcel for a neighbour. . . .Before you know it you are struggling with grief and anxiety, all rolled up into one.
This is normal. It happens to many of us. There is a way through it as well!
Please don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve been through (or are going through) a difficult time. Allow yourself to feel all of your emotions, to go with them and ride them out. Begin working on ways to cope, to manage the anxiety without being too harsh on yourself. Using social media? Find accounts that inspire you, make you smile, encourage you. Now may be the time to stop following those accounts of people that you find you are comparing yourself with.
Set yourself small, achievable tasks for each day. Or, if that seems too much, at the end of each day write down what you have achieved. It can be anything from doing the washing up, hoovering, watching your favourite film to going to the corner shop, walking the dog or meeting a friend. Whatever you feel you can manage, aim to do it. Whatever you have done that day, write it down!
Take each day as it comes. Be kind to yourself on the days you feel you’ve done nothing and start again tomorrow. You’ve probably heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. You can’t ease your anxiety, learn to manage it a little better, be rid of it completely overnight. Small steps lead to successful, completed journeys.
As time passes, you will hopefully realise that the pain of your grief is less painful and overwhelming and that your anxiety is not so in your face.
Grief and anxiety do often come hand in hand, but they don’t need to stay together.