Anxiety has become far too familiar to me since Rebekah’s accident. Just as grief is now a part of every aspect of my life, anxiety has crept in also.
I’ve been told I need to redirect my thoughts. Have any of you tried to do that? Seriously, it is hard!
I’ve also been told to give myself time. How am I supposed to deal during that in between time?
Truthfully, I feel like a bit of a freak. Everyone expects me to be sad, but I don’t think people expect me to be afraid to go out in public. I feel as if I have to tell you what this is like for me. I have no idea if other grieving people feel the same way, but this is how it goes for me. Maybe breaking it down and staring at it in black and white will help me understand it.
Fear of Tomorrow
The seven of us had just returned from a week-long vacation. We had wonderful quality family time during that trip and made memories that remain vivid in my mind. We were happy. That will forever be remembered by me as the last time I was happy. 24 hours later my daughter was gone. It happened that quickly.
If it happened once, it can happen again. I am always anxious about tomorrow.
Here are my excited kids the morning we headed out for the above-mentioned trip.
Fear of People
The way I think, feel, observe, and make decisions has changed. I can no longer make comfortable small talk. I can no longer be myself with the people I encounter. The real me is broken, and I fear I will never be me again.
This brings on a lot of social anxiety. I do not wish to meet new people because I am forced to talk about my kids. Strangers love to observe, “oh, you have a bunch of boys!”. I want to scream at them that I have a daughter too!!!
My fear of acquaintances goes in two ways. First, I’m afraid they will look at me with pity while remembering my daughter. Second, I am afraid they will not remember my Rebekah at all. I have found it best to pretend that I don’t see them.
Fear of Change
Clearly, things have changed. My daughter is not with me. The dynamics of our family have changed and as I’ve mentioned many times, I am not the same- none of us are. If I accept the change, does that mean I forget my daughter? Does that mean my love has diminished?
If I am happy, does that mean I have forgotten her? If I give her bedroom to the little boys, does that mean I accept she is not here?
I don’t know!
Fear of another Loss
This one is gripping and I’m sure this is not the first time you have heard me mention it. I am constantly afraid that I will lose one of my other kids. I deny their requests all the time because I now see danger lurking behind everything. Caleb slept over at a friend’s house recently and I stressed for days before and the entire time he was gone I fought the urge to continually text the boy’s mom.
We bought Rebekah a beautiful headstone. It is a red double heart. We put her name in the center and mine and Brett’s are on either side. When I saw Brett’s name carved into the stone, I nearly threw up. Most likely one of us will grieve the other. We will go through this again.
How do people continually grieve the loss of spouses, children, friends, parents, and other loved ones? This is something that will happen one by one for the rest of our lives. Who am I going to lose next?
Fear of Firsts and Seconds and Thirds
The first time we took a trip without her, the first time I saw someone I hadn’t seen since the funeral, the first Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentines Day. I anticipate them coming. They build up before me like a giant ominous storm cloud. I know they are coming and I stress about how I will feel, what I will do, how I help the kids, and how I help myself.
We are approaching the anniversary of her death. I’ve been dreading it since the weather turned warm. I have it stuck in my head that I will be reliving the accident, the fear, the overwhelming grief, the shock, the pain. The awful, awful pain.
What then? What happens once we’ve made it through a year of firsts? We have to do it all over again! She will still be absent at Caleb’s birthday in September and we will still not be buying her Christmas presents in December. I will switch over the kids’ closets from summer clothes to winter and hers will remain untouched.
What happens after the firsts? Are the seconds and thirds just as painful? I can’t go through that again. The familiar urge to hide in bed has returned. I cannot face August.
My anxiety is building as I write this. Perhaps, trying to redirect my thoughts is better than writing them down!
I woke up with a verse from Matthew chapter 6 going through my head,
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
But not that one. I am just giving you a feel for what Jesus is talking about. It’s verse 34 that got me.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
My anxiety will not be leaving any time soon. There is no magic cure nor quick relief, but I do think this verse will help. Perhaps focusing only on today, this moment, this hour, this hurdle, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow, I can at least reduce the number of worries going through my head.
Right now, we are all in the house together (minus my significant other). At this moment we are all safe. Right now, I don’t have to talk to any strangers and figure out the best way to answer “how many kids do you have?” without going into detail about Rebekah.
God is helping me through this moment, this point in my grief journey and my faith tells me He will be there to help me tomorrow too. I will let go of tomorrow.
One more picture from our trip. This was just 8 days before her accident when my anxiety revolved only around keeping the kids dry during my little photo shoot!
A full year after I wrote this post, God gave me a beautiful sign of hope and comfort. I wrote about it “She Still Lives: Bible Verses about Heaven after Death”