Grief and Anxiety: Understanding and Managing the Emotional Turmoil

Grief and anxiety are emotional states that humans experience at different points in their lives. Both emotions can be so overwhelming that they make it difficult for individuals to function normally. While grief can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, anxiety may occur due to a high-pressure situation, fear or change. The two emotional states can, however, occur simultaneously, which can complicate the healing process. Understanding the different types of grief and anxiety, as well as their symptoms, can be crucial in managing these emotions.

Understanding Grief

Grief, in simple terms, is a reaction to losing something or someone. The experience is subjective and can be triggered by various events, including divorce, the loss of an animal companion or the passing of a loved one. While grief is a natural response to loss, grieving is a journey where individuals experience conflicting emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, loneliness, and confusion.

There are different types of grief, some of which are:

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief refers to the emotions and reactions experienced when an individual expects or foresees an impending loss or death. Individuals, in this case, may experience anxiety or sadness long before the event occurs. This type of grief is common in individuals dealing with terminal illnesses and their caregivers or family members.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief, also referred to as prolonged grief, is a type of grief that lasts much longer than usual, typically six months or more. Individuals dealing with complicated grief may experience intense feelings of sadness, particularly when they perceive that their loved one’s death could have been prevented.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief occurs when individuals feel that their grief is not acknowledged or legitimized by others. It is common in individuals who experience a loss that the society, culture, or religion does not recognise or acknowledge. For instance, miscarriages, pet loss, or the death of an ex-spouse fall into this category.

Symptoms of Grief

Grief affects individuals differently, and there are no predetermined rules for how one will feel or react. Some individuals may struggle to cope with loss for longer periods than others, while some may recover within a short time. The following are some typical symptoms of grief:

  • Denial or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability or emotional outbursts
  • Mood swings and feeling of sadness
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Appetite changes and sleeping difficulties
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach upsets

Understanding Anxiety

Apart from grief, anxiety is another emotional state that can take over an individual’s life. Anxiety is a feeling of excessive uneasiness or worry that is typically out of proportion to the situation at hand. Essentially, anxiety is a response to uncertain or potential events that trigger fear or apprehension.

While anxiety may be part of everyday life, a persistent and excessive experience could point to a more severe condition known as anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that requires professional attention.

Symptoms of Anxiety

There are different types of anxiety disorders, each with its unique set of symptoms. However, common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate and shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension and restlessness
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviour
  • Sleeping difficulties

Managing Grief and Anxiety

Grief and anxiety can cause intense emotional pain that could make individuals feel helpless or overwhelmed. However, there are various ways of managing the two emotional states.

Get Support

It is essential to have a support system network comprising family, friends, or professionals. Dealing with grief and anxiety alone can exacerbate the situation. Having someone to talk to, whether about daily life or the grief and anxiety, can help relieve pressure and prevent some of the negative symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a common form of talking therapy that aims to alter negative behaviour and thought patterns. CBT helps individuals identify and understand negative thoughts and behaviours and learn healthier ways of dealing with them.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Engaging in mindfulness and meditation is another excellent way to alleviate the symptoms of grief and anxiety. Meditation helps individuals focus on the present moment, enabling them to relax and reduce the impact of past or future events.

Healthy Diet and Exercise

Physical activities such as yoga or exercise help alleviate anxiety symptoms by releasing feel-good hormones. A healthy diet can also help reduce inflammation in the brain and boost serotonin levels in the body.

Try Something New

Trying out something new, whether it is a hobby or a skill, can help distract individuals from their anxiety or grief symptoms. Engaging in activities that they enjoy can boost their mood, provide a sense of accomplishment, and boost their overall happiness.

Conclusion

Anxiety and grief are common emotional states that individuals experience at different times in their lives. While these two emotional states can cause profound emotional pain, they are manageable with the right approach. If the symptoms of anxiety or grief persist or interfere with daily life, it could be essential to seek professional help before they worsen.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Grief and Anxiety

What is the link between grief and anxiety?

Grief and anxiety commonly appear together, as experiencing a significant loss can lead to feelings of worry, fear, and uncertainty. Anxiety can often complicate the grieving process, making it harder to cope and slowing down the progress of healing.

How can one manage anxiety during the grieving process?

It’s essential to take care of oneself during the grieving process, especially when dealing with anxiety. Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, connecting with loved ones, seeking support from a therapist, and practicing relaxation techniques can effectively alleviate anxiety symptoms.

When should one seek professional help for their grief and anxiety?

It’s normal to experience grief and anxiety during the grieving process. However, suppose it persists or interferes with one’s daily life. In that case, it might be helpful to seek professional help. If the symptoms are uncomfortable and are getting in the way of functioning or causing significant distress, it’s vital to talk to a mental health professional to receive personalised support.


References

1. Bonanno, G. A., & Kaltman, S. (2001). The varieties of grief experience. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(5), 705-734.
2. Shear, K., Ghesquiere, A., & Glickman, K. (2013). Bereavement and anxiety. Current Psychiatry Reports, 15(8), 1-6.
3. Prigerson, H. G., Bierhals, A. J., Kasl, S. V., Reynolds, C. F., Shear, M. K., & Day, N. (1996). Traumatic grief as a risk factor for mental and physical morbidity. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 153(4), 527-533.