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5 Simple Ways to Cope With Scary, Overwhelming Grief

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.

How to Cope When You're Scared to Grieve

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,

Laurie

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4 thoughts on “5 Simple Ways to Cope With Scary, Overwhelming Grief”

  1. I’m sorry you lost your dad, Jade. It’s surreal when someone you love dies, isn’t it? And the feelings of grief change dramatically, almost every moment is different. My grieving veered from scary and overwhelming to disbelief and even denial.

    One way to let the emotion in is to watch sad movies. Sometimes I feel sad and even depressed, but I can’t cry or grieve. I find it so helpful to watch movies that make me cry. Always with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfus is an old movie, from 1989 or something, and I cry just thinking about it! Yesterday I cried watching Life or Something Like It, with Angelina Jolie.

    Another tip is to give your body, mind and spirit time to deal with the shock and numbness of your dad’s death. Grieving really does feel scary and overwhelming, which is why God gave us the gift of shock and numbness! You will grieve naturally if you let your mind, body, soul and spirit proceed at your own pace. Give yourself time and space — and maybe lots of sleep. I know I needed to escape into sleep when I grieved my grandma’s death.

    Finally, trust that you won’t have a mental breakdown! I thought I’d lose my mind with grief and pain, I really thought I might go crazy when I was grieving. It’s scary and overwhelming, but it’s important to simply let the emotions go through your body. If you run away or try to hold them down, they’ll just eat you alive from inside. Find a quiet spot — when I was dealing with the emotional consequences of an attempted rape, I parked my car in an old abandoned parking lot near train tracks. I screamed my head off, cried my eyes out, and pounded the steering wheel. It felt scary and weird, but it was so healing!

    I hope this helps…feel free to come back anytime and tell me what you tried and how it felt!

    In sympathy,
    Laurie

  2. I found out my Dad died yesterday, so unexpected its hit me so hard. I’m so scared to let all this pain in because I really think it will break me. At the moment in in num shock with pieces of pain leaking in but nothing feels real it all feels like a horrible dream. Thank you for making me feel less alone with my fear. Any tips on how to let the emotion in? I want to let it in so I can grieve properly but it’s so incredibly raw I dont know if I can.

  3. Thanks so much for writing about feeling scared to grieve on She Blossoms. My sister lost her husband, it was a tragic death at home that is very painful for her. It’s been one month, and she’s overwhelmed with loss and grief. I want to offer emotional support but I don’t know what to say or do. Could you give me some advice on how to help a grieving family member?
     

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