Grief is a complicated process. It changes and evolves, no two days are the same. Due to the trauma of death and grief, you may feel anxiety. You may think “Something painful and unbearable happened, what will keep it from happening again”? Anxiety and worry are a very real part of the grieving process. Grief can create real and painful anxiety, but there are tactics to counter it. Work to focus on the present. Focus on the things you can control. You may find some relief in maintaining and focusing on your routine, exercising, and distracting yourself or practicing mindfulness. Another helpful tool is to ‘get anxiety out of your head’ by talking to a friend, family member, or counselor. Share your thoughts and feelings. Anxiety and worry tend to gain momentum, swirling into ideas that are no longer logical or make sense. Expressing our anxiety out loud is one way we release it. Journaling is another way to alleviate the swirling thoughts, putting them onto paper. Once the anxious thoughts are out it is easier to look at them in the light of reality.
I encourage you this week to think of the things you can control vs. can’t control. Draw a circle on a paper. In the circle write the things you cannot control. (examples: other people’s thoughts, actions, and behaviors, death, the economy). Outside of the circle write the things you can control. (examples: how you react to situations, what you eat, how much you exercise, how you treat your body). This week practice focusing your attention on the things that you can control. If you have children in your home, talk with them about the things they can and can’t control. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say to someone who is in midst of anxiety, especially children. Some suggestions of things to say are: I’m here with you. You are safe. Let’s draw it. Tell me about your worry. What are your brain and body needing to get calm right now? We will get through this together. You are strong, brave, and loved. It’s okay to worry. It’s okay to stop worrying. Modeling how you manage your anxiety and grief is powerful in influencing how your children can learn to manage their own grief emotions. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. Healing takes time, and focusing on what we can control day by day is one way we can push through the anxiety to the other side.
Author – Lindsy Deiner-Locke, Program Specialist