Call 1.800.582.9533 to
speak with someone today.

Coping with Anxiety While Grieving

older couple coping with grief and anxiety

We think of grief as something that happens after someone we love dies. But grieving begins long before that. When your loved one is first sick; when he or she is struggling through doctors’ appointments, therapies and trips to the hospital; when you realize the curative care is no longer effective; and as you care for a hospice patient—through all of that you are feeling “anticipatory grief” It is as debilitating as the grief that follows death, but it happens when everyone is also coping with events and feelings they may never have experienced before. Is it any wonder that those coping with grief are also coping with anxiety?

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a state of distress or uneasiness about future uncertainties. An anxious person may be tense, restless and/or jittery, unable to sleep, unable to concentrate, short of breath or numb. These physical signs may overshadow the psychological symptoms of fear, worry or apprehension. Look for:

  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Excitability
  • Muscle tension
  • Trembling
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tight feeling in your stomach
  • Feeling like, “I am losing control”

How to Prevent Anxiety

  • Get the facts
  • Talk with someone who has been through a similar situation
  • Increase pleasant, distracting activities
  • Increase companionship and time spent with friends and family
  • Learn a relaxation technique

Things to Consider

  • An anxious person is often a demanding person
  • Anxiety may lead to sleep deprivation of you and your caregiver
  • If you previously coped with anxiety by becoming busy and are no longer able to be so active, you may need to seek other coping strategies

What to Do

  • Try to determine exactly what thoughts make you feel anxious
  • Talk to someone about your worries and fears
  • Know that it is OK to feel sad and afraid
  • Seek help through counseling, support groups, minister, priest or rabbi
  • Recall how you have coped with similar feelings in the past
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Visualization techniques
  • Keep a log of your moods and thoughts throughout the day
  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor for anxiety

Finally, families caring for a loved one who is on hospice care with VITAS can ask their team manager or bereavement services manager about a wonderful book VITAS offers that addresses the anxiety and worries of terminal illness. Maureen Kramlinger, MA, CT, the author of Making the Most of the Time We Have, says this in her introduction:

Considering the information and opportunities discussed in the following pages will help you feel less vulnerable and anxious. You’ll be able to understand the reasons for the changes you see. That will help you engage with your loved one, talk to him or her, and feel more confident that you can recognize and respond to changing needs.”