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”
13 thoughts on “Anxiety, a Lesser known Part of my Grief”
I am so very sorry for your loss. I too have a similar story. Mine happened when a drunk driver smashed head-on traveling at a rate of 80 mph. Everyone was killed except me; I was just fourteen. My mother was 39 years old. The drunk driver died too.
Fast forward to now, my husband has been fighting for his life for the past ten years (aggressive form of MS). The last five years I barely remember. We’ve become strangers to everyone who has known us, including ourselves. Suffering while alive is different from suffering a loss. Both very difficult and tragic, but different… One is shocking and disbelievable, surreal for ever, while the other is raw, exhausting and real. Grief is a massive thing, it permeates every aspect of life.
The reason for writing: I wonder why we tend to want to hide away from social activities? I’ve tried to join in in family gatherings, but I find I don’t enjoy them. In fact, they exacerbate my feelings of fear and loneliness increasing anxiety. It’s like I have nothing in common to light-heartedly chat about. People clearly feel uncomfortable, and are saddened by my presence, which further deepens grieving and shakes my confidence. I used to be the life of the party. I’m thinking the only way to get through this and start healing (or at least cope better) is to move away where people don’t know me. Thoughts.
You have experienced a lot of trials. I can see why you feel uncomfortable in social situations. I don’t know that moving to where people don’t know you will help. You will be forced to talk about your life with neighbors, church members etc. and sometimes starting from the beginning is more painful. I wonder if it is our mindset that needs to change. Perhaps reaching out to others will help us rather than hurt us. Maybe casual conversation is good for us-a reprieve from the heavy thoughts that weigh on us. I keep telling myself that I need more time, but being pushed might be a better solution. Fear has to be faced in order to be overcome, right? Do you think social anxiety is the same? If we forced ourselves to join in, it would force us to connect again. That’s all I’ve got. I will pray that God gives you the answers you seek.
I too had anxiety that I had never had before. It does get better. I think identifying it, acknowledging it, ALLOWING it, helped me work through it. I am in my 3rd year now post loss. It will never go away, you will never forget, but it gets less and less and life starts a NEW normal. Prayers for you.
I am sorry for your loss, but encouraged by your healing. Thank you for your encouraging words!
I’m so sorry for your loss. I can wholly relate to everything that you say – it felt like I was reading about myself. I lost my 5-year-old little boy, Ned, in a horrific car crash on Good Friday, 2016. I have bereavement counselling and have been seeing a psychologist since August, 2017 – I have been diagnosed with PTSD and Complex Grief Disorder (I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety back in 2014). I’m very slowly able to function a bit better for my two other sons. I have taken up running which really helps to empty my mind, and I’m writing children’s books again. But these are things I do by myself. Like you say, my social anxiety is still crippling. I wish you all the comfort in the world as we live in this nightmare xx
I am sorry to hear about your son. One day they are smiling and laughing and the next they are not. I am convinced that the only way to make it through this is by the strength of God. Running has helped me also! Through the winter, it was the only way for me to get the “crazy” out of my head. Playing outside with the kids and gardening has helped this spring/summer. Hugs from my broken heart to yours.
I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot relate to losing a child, but I know grief and anxiety. I lost my husband and soulmate of 40 years 4 and a half years ago, and I am still lost, so very lost. Every angelversary, every birthday, his and mine, our anniversary! Those are the worst days of my life. I am in the later years of my life, and my only wish now is to join him in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am sorry for your loss. Losing someone who has been a part of your life for such a long time changes the way you do everything. I know it is lonely for you without him. I pray you are surrounded by family and friends and that God fills you with peace.
That so hits home. Thank you for this. I am facing all my firsts as my son and only child has only been gone less than 3 months. Mother’s Day week.
I am so sorry for your loss and wish we were not forced to walk this path. Thank you for hearing my heart and sharing yours.
Heather, We don’t know each other well, i’m Just part of your small community of local moms. I just wanted you to know that although we do feel a bit of empathy for your loss, I think as moms, we all grieve with you. My family didn’t know your daughter especially well, but we as moms flash forward and our hearts feel panic, grief, complete loss along with you. We will never feel the weight you carry the way you do, but as a community we greave with you. No one expects the small talk, if anything, always want to scoop you up and just hug on you! I see your family out and I marvel and think about how jesus’s Strength is made perfect through weakness, because there has to be hard days for all of you. You mamma, are doing a wonderful job.
Dear Sweet Acquaintance, I worry when I write about my community that well meaning people will be offended. We received such love from people like you last summer that the last thing I want to do is appear unappreciative. Reading your message has brought me relief. Perhaps others that wonder if I am avoiding them, understand. I hope so. Thank you for this. It means more than you know.
Never offended. I hope we’ve all given you the space when you’ve needed it and an ear when you’ve needed that too.