Anxiety and Grief

In our society it is often thought of as being ‘strong’ when we don’t show our emotions and are able to ‘forge ahead’ and ‘get on with it’ when being faced with grief or loss.  Normally employers and friends are accepting that within the first few weeks you may not be your usual self and employers may cut you some slack but soon you will be expected to return to normal and life goes on.   Often we do this to ourselves too, dismissing painful feelings by saying things to ourselves like ‘I should be over this by now’ or ‘what’s wrong with me? It’s time I moved on from this’.  However grief can be complicated depending on the type of loss.  If you have lost someone close to you it will depend on the kind of relationship you had with them and how they died.  If the loss was related to something that you had a lot of hope and expectations attached to such as a miscarriage it can be particularly crushing as you come to terms with the loss of the life you imagined.

How grief was dealt with in your family will also affect your reaction, for example if your family pattern was to dismiss feelings in general and keep the classic British stiff upper lip then you will more than likely have continued doing this too.

The problem is that the more you suppress your feelings of loss the more they will build up over time and create anxiety and panic.  In my counselling practice I see clients who have got to the stage of extreme anxiety and panic attacks as a result of not being in touch with and expressing their grief.  They may be looking after other family members or friends and neglecting themselves which results in strong feelings building up and finding a way out in the form of anxiety.

Anxiety is characterised by shallow breath, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, racing mind and in extreme cases of panic the fear that you may die as you aren’t aware of it being a panic attack.  In short everything speeds up so it’s important to try and start to slow everything down and take control again.

Ways to overcome anxiety

  1. Learn how to breathe – connect with your breath by taking some time out to sit quietly with your feet on the floor and spine straight and become aware of your breath by breathing in and out through your nose as this calms down the central nervous system.   Focus on making your breath long and deep, taking it down into your stomach area so that your stomach becomes inflated like a balloon and then make your out breath longer.  Counting in for 6 and out for 9.
  2. Connect with your feelings – you may find that feelings associated with your loss surface during your breathing exercise as your breath connects you with your body and you may become more aware of painful feelings such as sadness, despair, hurt or anger.  Just notice them and if you feel like crying cry, if you feel angry notice what it makes you feel like doing and as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others find a way of expressing this.
  3. If you find yourself panicking use your breath to slow down your heart rate, focus on something in the room so that your awareness is in the present not with your thoughts and remember to keep your thoughts positive (it’s easy for your thoughts to make you spiral downwards when in a panicked state).
  4. Talk to someone you trust about the loss and how it makes you feel.  If this feels uncomfortable find a counsellor who will help you through this difficult time.
  5. Notice negative thoughts which make you feel worse or guilty; write them down and then change them to more rational thoughts and remember that you’re suffering enough without you giving yourself a hard time
  6. Know that once you are able to be with and express your feelings they will pass and it’s true that time really does make it easier and less painful.

If you would like to book an appointment to address feelings of grief and/or anxiety contact me at or 07841 420067




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