Is it Normal to Struggle with Anxiety 18 Months into Grief?

Grieving the death of a loved one is a deeply personal and often complex journey. Many people feel overwhelmed by the intensity and duration of their emotions, particularly as time passes. It's not uncommon to find oneself grappling with anxiety, even 18 months or longer after a loss. Understanding this part of the grieving process can be crucial for those who are learning to live with their new reality.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Dec 13, 2023
3 min read
Reading
Grief and Guilt: Managing the Weight of Regret

The type of loss you have experienced plays a crucial role in shaping your grief journey. For instance, the sudden death of a loved one in a car accident can be shockingly abrupt, leaving no time for goodbyes or preparation. This kind of unexpected and traumatic loss can deeply affect family members, often leading to intense and prolonged periods of anxiety. Such losses might challenge your beliefs about the world being a safe and predictable place, leading to feelings of vulnerability and fear. The randomness of a car accident can bring about recurring thoughts about the fragility of life, contributing to an ongoing state of anxiousness. It’s important to understand that these reactions are natural responses to an unnatural event, and acknowledging this can be the first step in addressing your grief-related anxiety.

Grief and Mental Health

Grieving extends far beyond the realm of emotional responses; it profoundly impacts mental health. The loss of a loved one can trigger a cascade of psychological responses, with anxiety being a prominent one. This anxiety can manifest in various ways, such as incessant worries about other loved ones’ safety, or a generalized sense of dread about the future. The process of grieving can exacerbate existing mental health issues or even trigger new ones. It’s critical to recognize that grief and mental health are inextricably linked. This understanding underscores the importance of seeking support, whether through therapy, counseling, or support groups. Addressing your mental health during the grieving process is not just about managing symptoms, but also about understanding and healing the underlying emotional turmoil that comes with loss.

Learning to Live Again

Learning to live in the absence of a loved one is a journey that unfolds in its own unique way for each individual. It involves not just coming to terms with the fact that the person is no longer physically present, but also integrating this reality into your daily life. This process can be fraught with challenges and a wide spectrum of emotions, including profound anxiety. It’s about relearning how to experience joy, navigate sadness, and engage in everyday activities without the physical presence of the loved one. You might find yourself revisiting places you went to together or recalling shared memories, which can be both comforting and painful. As you embark on this journey, remember that it’s normal to have good days and bad days. The process of adapting to this new reality is not linear, and allowing yourself to experience all these emotions is a crucial part of healing.

The Role of Time

Time’s role in the grieving process is multifaceted and often misunderstood. The adage that time heals all wounds oversimplifies the complexity and variability of grief. As time marches on, it is a common expectation for the intensity of grief to diminish. However, the experience of grief is rarely linear. It’s much more akin to a wave, with moments of calm interspersed with turbulent, overwhelming emotions. Grief can re-emerge with nearly the same intensity experienced at the start, particularly during poignant occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, or even certain seasons that were significant to the deceased and the bereaved.

These recurrences of grief, often termed ‘grief bursts’, can catch individuals off guard, especially when they occur long after the loss. They serve as a reminder that while time passes, the emotional imprint of the loved one remains. Such moments underscore the ongoing nature of grief, highlighting that it is not something that one simply ‘gets over’, but rather something that evolves and integrates into the fabric of one’s life.

Moreover, time offers a perspective that is often inaccessible in the immediacy of loss. With the passage of months or years, individuals may start to find new meanings and understandings in their loss. They may begin to recognize how their experiences of grief have shaped their perspectives, relationships, and priorities. This evolving understanding can lead to personal growth, a renewed sense of purpose, or a deeper appreciation for life.

Importantly, the role of time in grieving should not be seen as a solitary healer. It is, instead, a backdrop against which various active coping strategies and support mechanisms play a crucial role. These include seeking support from friends and family, engaging in meaningful activities, and, when necessary, professional counselling.

In essence, time in the context of grief is not just about moving away from the moment of loss, but about moving forward with the loss, allowing it to become a part of one’s ongoing story. This perspective does not minimize the pain or loss but acknowledges that the passage of time can provide a space where one can learn to live with their grief, embracing life’s complexities and continuing to find joy and meaning.

Support Groups: A Source of Comfort

Support groups can be a valuable resource for those struggling with grief and anxiety. Sharing experiences with others who have faced similar losses can provide comfort and understanding. These groups offer a safe space to express feelings and learn coping strategies from peers.

How Family Members Can Help

Family members play a crucial role in the support system of someone grieving. Their understanding and patience can be a significant source of comfort. Being there to listen and offer support can make a substantial difference in the bereaved person’s journey.

Conclusion

Struggling with anxiety 18 months into the grieving process is more common than many people realize. It’s a normal part of adapting to a significant loss, especially in cases like a sudden car accident. Seeking support, whether through family members, support groups, or professional help, is essential. Remember, grief is a personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to navigate it. Your feelings are valid, and with time and support, you will find your path to healing.