The grieving process is scary! Grief can feel overwhelming – a mixture of fear, confusion and pain that makes you feel like you’re losing your mind or going crazy. But the craziness of grief is essential to healing. You’re normal if you feel scared of the overpowering, overwhelming rush of emotions that grief brings.
Fear not, for I bring tidings of comfort and peace (and maybe joy?). These tips for coping when you’re scared of “grief pain” will help you though the overwhelming grieving process. You’ll start healing and moving forward. You’ll find hope and life where you least expect it.
In How Do You Grieve With Hope and Faith? on Echoing Jesus I share grief tips for Christians. These tips are more practical, for people of all faiths and beliefs. In this article I share my own experience with grief and loss. I was scared to grieve because the feelings were so painful and overwhelming…but I learned that avoiding grief was more damaging in the long run. So, I grieved. And it hurt. But I got over my fear — and I’m here to help you flourish! But first, you need to face the grieving process, no matter how afraid you feel.
My grandma’s death was my biggest, most shocking experience with grief. I thought I was going to die when my sister told me my grandmother died. I remember saying, “I’m going to die, I can’t survive this.” My heart was broken, my whole body in shock, and my mind reeling. I couldn’t believe she was gone, and I was filled with fear. I’ll never forget my sister’s response. “You’ll live,” she said. “You’ll get over it.” Cold, but true.
5 Ways to Cope With Scary, Overwhelming Feelings of Grief
I didn’t realize how normal it is to be scared of the grieving process. After his wife Joy died, C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
1. Grieve alone and with others
Find a balance between grieving with others and grieving alone. This is one of the best ways to cope with the overwhelming, scary emotions of grief. The relationship between fear and grief is complex, but it often involves coping with fear of the unknown. When you’re grieving a loss in your life, you’re also facing an unknown future. You had plans, hopes, dreams and expectations for your life…and the death or loss shattered everything.
How do you cope with an unknown future, especially when you feel alone and lost? You reach out to others, perhaps through grief support groups, counselors, or even programs like GriefShare through local churches. Even if you aren’t a person of faith, explore the idea that God is taking care of you. Lean into His comfort, shelter and love. You are far more vulnerable than you realized…but you are safe in the embrace of Jesus.
2. Hold your heart gently, with compassion and kindness
This tip on how to cope when you’re scared of grief is both practical and emotional: be kind and gentle with yourself. Your heart is broken or bruised, shaken or shattered. You may not feel anything, because your grief is so deep.
Go slow. Be gentle and kind with yourself – especially if you’re dealing with guilty feelings after a parent’s death. Right now fear or guilt isn’t something to fight. The more you fight your fear or guilt, the bigger and stronger they get. For now, allow your fear to be part of the grieving process. Let yourself be scared of and even overwhelmed by grief — because grieving really is scary. Allow your fear into your heart and spirit; know that your grief will pass through you.
3. Know that you WILL be okay if you get the fear and grief out
Recovering from loss and surviving grief in healthy ways has to involve expression. That is, you need to air out your pain, expose your grief, and share your loss. If you hold on to your grief, it’ll grow deeper and stronger.
Work through your fear and grief by expressing it in writing, art, exercise, group activities, or books such as Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. Share your pain with other people, with God, with Mother Nature. The grieving process may still feel scary, but at least you won’t be stuffing it down. And you won’t grieve alone.
4. Walk around the block, through the forest, in a new neighborhood
Physical and emotional exhaustion often accompany grief, and fear feeds on inactivity. It’s a downward spiral: the sadder you are, the less energy you have to move. The less you move, the sadder you feel. Down you go, into a pit of inactivity, despair, and hopelessness.
One of the healthiest tips for overcoming fear of the grieving process is to breathe fresh air. Don’t push yourself to climb mountains or swim oceans (unless mountain climbing and ocean swimming helps you grieve!). Don’t force yourself to do exercises you hate. Be gentle but firm with your body, for breathing fresh air is good for your heart, soul, body and spirit. Be scared to grieve, but keep moving.
5. Learn how others deal with fear and grief
If you like to analyze or think your way through problems such as grief and loss, read a few books on the stages of grieving. Learn about how the grieving process and fear are intertwined, and practice ways to overcome those “I’m scared to grieve” feelings.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is a good resource for coping with grief — especially if you’re scared of the painful feelings of loss. The authors offer lots of psychological and emotional sources of support, including reassurance that you WILL get through this!
Books not only give you information and tips for coping with fear of grieving, they show you you’re not alone. Many people have walked the path of grief before you, with fear and trembling. Your grieving process is unique, but grief in general started when God grieved the loss of His first humans, Adam and Eve.
What do you think, how are you coping with the “craziness” of grief? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below. If you feel particularly overwhelmed because of an anniversary or special occasion, read 5 Ways to Get Through the Holidays When You’re Grieving.
Remember that you have a source of wisdom that goes far beyond me, and you’ll listen to His voice when you’re ready. Then, your faith will give you the strength and courage you need to walk into the next season of life…and Blossom into who God created you to be.
With His love,