Woman sitting with hands clasped and eyes shut | Anxiety After Child Loss | Grief Counseling | Infant and Pregnancy Loss | Evolve Counseling | Centennial CO 80112

The loss of a child is devastating.  It’s unnatural and life-shattering.  It doesn’t matter if it happens days after conception or years into life.  After it happens, it’s impossible to look at the world the same.  Anxiety and fear creep in and replace the once comforting sense of security.

Before experiencing such a profound loss, we live in a world where we can believe “it won’t happen to me”.   Not fully realizing how fleeting our sense of security and predictability really is.   Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to protect us from living in fear of bad things happening.   Whatever it is, it’s comforting.  But, the moment the unimaginable happens, that goes away.

Suddenly, you realize those horrible things can happen to you without any warning and are outside of your control.

With this realization comes an overwhelming anxiety and fear.  The “what if’s” start to creep in.  What if I get in a car accident?  What if I lose someone else close to me?  What if my other children die?  It’s overwhelming, to say the least.

It’s not uncommon to have worrisome thoughts like this, even without experiencing child loss.  However, I’ve found that for myself and others I have worked with, this drastically increases after a loss.  As a therapist, I knew how these thoughts impact anxiety and overall mental health.  However, I could not stop from having them after we lost our son.  To be honest, I still have them regularly.

The trouble with these types of thoughts is that they create fear and anxiety, which wrecks havoc on our lives.

In an attempt to have control over the unknown we begin avoiding things.  We become hypervigilant and stop doing things we normally would for fear of something bad happening.  Although this gives us an illusion of control, it also prevents us from being present and enjoying the moment.  We begin living in constant fear of what COULD happen instead of being present for what IS happening.

The reality is, even if we avoid all of our “what if’s”, we still do not always have control.  Bad things can happen at any time and without warning.

This is anxiety provoking.  Even as I write this, I feel the panic creeping in, with the urge to avoid right behind it  But, I’ve decided that is not how I want to live.  Yes, bad things can happen, but they can happen even if I avoid everything I deem “too risky”.

While these fears may not completely go away, there are ways to manage them without exhausting yourself by trying to control everything.  Here are some things that may help.

  1. Mindfulness/being present– when we are worrying about the future or things that could happen we are not in the present moment.  That means we are missing out on the now.  And the bad things we are worrying about may not ever happen.  When you notice you are worrying about the future, gently redirect your mind to now.  You can also draw your attention to the moment by using grounding techniques.  One way to ground is to look around and find 3 things you can see, 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, and 3 things you can feel.
  2. Coping Statements– create a mantra or statement that will remind you that what you are worried about is not happening now.  Some examples are “that is not happening now”, “at this moment I am safe”, “that is just a thought, it is not real right now”, “not having control is scary and I can
  3. Remind yourself of your ability to cope– this is one thing that really helped me when I was pregnant after the loss of my son.  I was terrified that I would lose another child.  Not having control over that terrified me and consumed my thoughts.  My therapist at the time said to me “what if you could remind yourself that if that were to happen you could get through it, no matter how painful”.  That made sense to me.  I had survived my son’s death.  I could get through anything, even if it broke me to pieces.  The truth is, that we can’t do anything about these bad things until they happen and they may never happen, but worrying about them ruins every moment anticipating them to.
  4. Thought Diffusion– don’t try to prevent these thoughts from happening, instead, when they arise notice them and try letting them pass by.  Some find it helpful to imagine them on a cloud floating by, on a leaf floating down a stream, or on a billboard as you pass by.  I like to imagine them drifting in one ear and out the other.  Find something that works for you and practice.  In time, you will be able to let these thoughts go without latching on to them.

Not living in fear is hard and may seem impossible right now.  It’s normal to have these thoughts, you have just been through an earth-shattering loss. These thoughts don’t have to consume you.  It is possible to manage them so that you don’t live your life in fear.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Dealing With Anxiety And Fear After Child Loss”

  1. Hope's Mama says:

    Thank you. I so needed to read this right now. I am constantly trying not to live in fear, to be in the moment. Anxiety is so hard as it is self perpetuating.

  2. Kendra says:

    Thank you I couldn’t of wrote it any better.
    This was me after the loss of son and 10 years on I am still trying to get a handle of this….I am much better but have my moments.
    Thank you for sharing and making me feel normal. X

  3. Nancy Atieno Okumu says:

    This is happening to me too and thanks alot tips. Its now almost two months since l lost my daughter and the fear is so intense that even sleeping is hard. I check on my son every now and then. I fear even going to work because people are avoiding me or those who cannot avoid me are looking at me with pity. Am thinking of quitting my job.

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