While anxiety isn’t often thought about as a common reaction to grief, it's normal to find yourself feeling anxious or worried after the death of someone close. In this article, we’ll explore the link between grief and anxiety and provide you with some strategies for coping.
Can grief cause anxiety?
The death of someone close can make us feel like we’ve lost our sense of safety or control over our life. It’s therefore natural to feel anxious or worried about what might happen next, or if we might lose someone else in future.
The period before or after someone dies can also be a particularly stressful experience. For those dealing with anticipatory grief due to terminal illness, you might also be experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety in anticipation of their situation worsening. All of these factors can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Particularly if you’ve had to take on extra caring responsibilities or are having to deal with closing the person's accounts or dealing with their possessions.
What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety can feel different for everyone, but common anxiety symptoms listed by the NHS include:
a sense of dread
feeling "on edge"
- difficulty concentrating
Alongside these feelings, anxiety can also lead to physical symptoms including:
- nausea, stomach cramps and needing to go to the toilet
- a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- trembling or shaking
- dry mouth
- difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
When to ask for help?
If you find that symptoms of anxiety and grief are persisting after several months and you feel 'stuck' feeling this way, it may be time to ask for help.
You can call the Cruse Helpline or contact us online using CruseChat to speak to a trained bereavement volunteer about how you’re feeling. You can also read more about the link between grief and mental health here.
Techniques for dealing with anxiety
Talking to someone about how you’re feeling can help you cope with anxiety. But if you’re feeling very anxious right now, there are a number of techniques you can use to restore calm:
Writing down your thoughts
Writing down some of the reasons you’re feeling anxious can help you organise your thoughts and make them feel less overwhelming. Journaling and letter writing are also proven tools to help you cope with grief.
Practising square breathing
There are a number of different breathing techniques you can use to deal with anxiety. Square breathing involves breathing in through your nose for a count of 4, holding for a count of 4 and slowly exhaling for a count of 4.
A well known technique for dealing with panic attacks and anxious feelings, this strategy aims to get you focused on your surroundings to guide your mind to the present. First name and acknowledge five things you can see, then four things you can touch, three things you can hear (this could be your breathing or the sound of a ticking clock), two things you can smell and, finally, one thing you can taste.
Talk to someone.
Talking to a someone about why you're feeling anxious can help you feel better. Reach out to friends and family about how you're feeling. Here at Cruse, our trained bereavement volunteers can also help you make sense of your situation. Find out more about the ways Cruse can support you.