I struggle with thanatophobia which is basically a big word for death anxiety. Not my own death. I don’t want to leave my children any time soon, but oddly enough, my own death doesn’t stress me out. Nope, my death anxiety is all about losing my loved ones.
Now, I wish I could say that I have only been dealing with this anxiety since my husband’s suicide, but that isn’t the case. I am not even sure if I can pinpoint the exact moment that this started.
My uncle was murdered just months after I was born, and I saw how that affected my family. Growing up, I was keenly aware that my grandmother had been widowed and that my grandfather was not the father of three of my aunts.
Around age six, I watched a water skier lose their life by getting hit by a boat. When I was about seven-years-old, friends of our family lost their teenage daughter in a drowning accident.
I could go on, but I think you all get the point. For as long as I can remember, I was aware of death and it’s permanency. And it isn’t something I ever remember not having some anxiety over.
When I became a mom in 2002, anxiety over my children dying was intense. With my son, I had postpartum depression. It was rough, but I sought help right away because I didn’t want anything to happen to my children. The medication seemed to help me better manage the anxiety I felt.
In 2006, my mom and I had to make the difficult decision to turn off the machines that were keeping my dad alive. The fact that he passed after only 30 minutes told me we made the right decision, but it did nothing to help my death anxiety. Time helped me process and cope with the loss, and medication continued to help me with the anxiety.
Then we get to December 6th of 2018. Ugh! When I say I didn’t have a clue what that day would bring, I mean it. I was clueless, and I feel horrible about that. I also feel anger. Jeff knew how I felt about losing loved ones. I shared with him how I struggled with this stupid anxiety and how hard I had to fight to keep it at bay.
After Jeff died, I had to up my medication. Let me tell you that, even with that increased dose, I fight this beast all the time. My usual ways of coping don’t always help. So, what exactly does this beast look like?
Well, it looks like me staring at the phone tracking my son, who is a wonderful driver by the way, when he is driving home in some heavier rain. Praying almost the whole time. Having myself convinced that something was horribly wrong because his car wasn’t moving, and pleading with God for him to be okay. He was. The smart boy actually decided to pull over because he couldn’t see well.
It looks like me not letting my youngest daughter go out of state with a friend’s family because she might drown, or they might get in a car accident, or <insert any other wild and crazy tragedy that you can think of here>.
It also looks like me not letting my adult daughter walk our perfectly safe neighborhood at night because someone could hit her with their car or kidnap and kill her. Oh, and the one time I did let her go, I drove to pick her up because the anxiety won.
Fear…it looks like an abundance of fear. Exhausting, paralyzing, distressing fear! Fear that knows no rhyme or reason and sometimes strikes when I least expect it.
Ladies, you might not fully relate to my death anxiety, but I am guessing that widowhood has brought you an amount of fear and challenges that you struggle with at times. And why wouldn’t it? We are facing the unknown, and we are facing it without our person.
I know most of us hate hearing people tell us how strong we are, but truthfully, I believe that we are! Usually, we are strong because we don’t have another choice, but that doesn’t take away the fact that we are strong.
I get my strength from the Lord (Psalm 28:7). Pretty sure I couldn’t work through my fear and anxiety without Him. Prayer helps me tremendously. Okay, I say prayer, but it’s nothing fancy. Most of the time it is just me having a regular ol’ conversation with Jesus just like I would my best friend.
You know what else helps me? Being extremely mindful of my irrational thoughts and challenging them. Realizing that no amount of watching my son drive on Life 360 is going to keep him from getting in an accident. Knowing that letting my daughter leave town with a friend doesn’t mean impending doom is on the way. Accepting that an adult can safely walk around a quiet neighborhood in a village of 1400 people.
I can’t stop my kids from doing everything that could possibly bring harm. Heck, we would never leave our house. I can, however, pray. Sometimes that is all that you can do. Pray that God will keep them safe, and pray that God will help me handle any challenge that comes my way.
So, Ladies, do you have fear that cripples you at times? If so, how do you work through it? I would love to hear from you.
I can totally relate. Just recently on a family vacation up to the mountains with extended family I was so anxious over my sister taking my teenage kids mountain biking that even my 17 year old son had to tell me, “Mom, you know we’ll be back in a few hours right?” (Will you? Promise??) I’m 5-1/2 years out from my husband’s suicide and I feel it’s now hitting me more – the death anxiety. Your blog was comforting though I’m sorry for all the loss you’ve experienced in your life. I guess how I cope is breathe and stay present. It’s not easy but life stopped being easy a long time ago. I have to stay mindful to what IS, just like you said 😊
Thank you for sharing, Lisa. You are right that it isn’t easy, but our children sure do make it worth it. Mine are the reason I keep fighting hard to keep my anxiety and fear in check. Big hugs to you!
Am interested n am from kenya