Losing A Loved One: Coping with Anxiety by Hannah Walters

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Life and death are intrinsically connected. When faced with the imminent death of our own loved ones, we can find ourselves feeling a mixture of emotions – denial, sadness, and even, relief, to name just a few.  

Anxiety is a natural reaction to losing a loved one. Fear of the unknown tends to make us worry, but it’s important not to let that worry spiral. Accepting your emotions and managing any anxiety you’re feeling will help you to appreciate your loved one and the time you have left together.  

Getting Support for Your Emotions 

The reality of losing someone that we love is that we’re going to go through a rollercoaster of emotions. Some, we would expect, like sorrow or sadness. Others may completely take us by surprise, like anger, relief, or guilt. Whatever you’re feeling, the experience of losing a loved one can make you feel isolated and alone.  

Getting support for your emotions can help you to realise that you’re not alone. You may not realise that you may be experiencing anticipatory grief and that you may need support to cope with feelings of bereavement. The good news is that there are many people who can help you navigate any overwhelming emotions.  

A support group enables you to talk to people living through a similar experience and get guidance from a professional, in a neutral and objective environment. If you normally draw comfort from spirituality or religion, then seek out ways to connect with that part of yourself. Don’t forget that your friends and family are there to help, too. As hard as it is, engage with them – whether you want to talk about your feelings or just want some company, your friends and family will understand.   

Talking about how you feel to someone can help to bring you relief from that waterfall of emotions and help you to find some perspective.  

Sorting Out the Practical Matters 

When faced with upsetting news, we often start by focusing on the things we can control. By taking control, we feel more grounded and more able to cope with what lies ahead.  

Many of us find it reassuring to talk to medical professionals to understand what’s coming and what we can do to help. The “Liverpool care pathway for the dying patient” was implemented in the late 1990s to help terminally ill patients be more engaged in their end-of-life care. Supporting your loved one to prepare an End-of-Life Care Pathway can help them to live as well as possible in their remaining time, and helps you to feel involved, offering some comfort to you both. 

Aside from the medical practicalities, you may also find yourself wanting to support your loved one to deal with financial or legal matters – wills, support for any children affected, and even funeral details, may need to be considered.   

Ticking off the practical matters may help you to stop worrying about them, so you can concentrate more of your energy towards spending quality time with your loved one.  

Spending Time Together 

You may find it difficult to spend time with your loved one. Perhaps you want to avoid seeing them in pain? Or you’re trying to hang onto memories of when they were well? Perhaps they don’t want to feel like a burden. 

As hard as it is, spending time with your loved one now can help you both to process the grief. Being there for your loved one to listen to them, try new activities together and make new memories will remind them that they’re loved. Sharing their childhood memories or memorable moments in their life can give them a sense of peace.  

Perhaps you haven’t always had a good relationship and things have happened that you regret. If it gives you both comfort, then spend some time making amends, but follow their lead.  

Paying attention to the present moment not only helps your mental well-being and feelings of anxiety but also helps you to cherish your time together. In the longer term, making these new memories now may help to anchor you in the days and weeks following their passing.   

Look After Yourself 

Cut yourself some slack. This is a challenging time in your life, and while your loved one’s needs are important, so are yours. Don’t neglect your own mental or physical health needs. Take a walk, read a book, or have a bath. Accept help when it’s offered.  

Caring for a loved one nearing the end of their life is physically and emotionally stressful, and anxiety is a common emotion at times like this. Managing your worries can help you feel more in control and allow you to cherish your remaining time together. Above all else, remember that you’re not alone.  

This article was written by freelance writer Hannah Walters.