What to Do When Grieving Feels Scary and Overwhelming

Grief feels like an overwhelming and terrifying mix of fear, confusion, and pain. The grieving process is scary! But it’s also essential to healing. Fear of grief is normal, because the grieving process is scary. Grief is also heartbreaking, lonely, and long. That’s the bad news.

But wait, there’s good news! These tips for coping when you’re scared of “grief pain” will help you though the process. You’ll start healing and moving forward — and you’ll find hope and life where you least expect it.

This week’s theme on She Blossoms is how to overcome fear; my first article was What to Do When You Feel Scared You’ll Never Be Loved. This is a more difficult article to write because of 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.

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My grandma’s death was my biggest, most shocking experience with grief. I thought I was going to die when my sister told me that my grandmother had died. 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 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.”

5 Ways to Cope When Grieving Feels Scary

My “She Blossoms” articles are broken up into five different categories, or Blossom Tips. This ensures I cover the whole spectrum: Spirit, Heart, Soul, Body, and Brain. And, the separate tips on how to cope with fear of the grieving process will help you identify which works best for you.

1. Don’t face the unknown alone

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 to Cope When You're Scared to Grieve 

5 Ways to Cope With Fear of the Grieving Process

How do you cope with an unknown future, especially when you feel alone and lost? You accept your own vulnerability, and trust that God is taking care of you. You lean into His comfort, shelter and love. And you face the truth: you’re more vulnerable than you realized.

The downside is that it’s scary to be vulnerable, especially when you’re grieving the loss of someone you love. But the upside is that you can develop a stronger, deeper relationship with God.

2. Hold your grieving heart gently

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, and be gentle with yourself. Right now your fear isn’t something to fight. The more you fight your fear, the bigger and stronger it’ll get. For now, allow your fear to be part of the grieving process. Let yourself be scared of grief — because grieving is scary! Allow your fear into the room. Sit with your fear. You might even befriend.

3. Let your 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 in the pain, 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. Lift your feet!

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 on how to overcome fear of the grieving process is to go for a walk. Don’t push yourself to train for the next marathon — even if it’s in a deceased loved one’s memory. Don’t force yourself to do exercises you hate. Be gentle but firm with your body, for you are doing something good for yourself. Allow yourself to feel scared to grieve while you’re walking through a forest or around the block.

5. Learn about fear and grieving

If you like to analyze or think your way through problems such as grief and loss, then pick up 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? Your thoughts – big and little – on how to grieve when you feel scared are welcome below. I read every comment, and would love to hear from you. And don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do about your grieving process and fear.

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.


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3 thoughts on “What to Do When Grieving Feels Scary and Overwhelming

  • Jade

    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.

  • Gary

    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?