by Andrea M. Darcy
Is a fear of losing loved ones always on your mind? Are you worried about losing a parent, or a a partner dying?
Is a fear of losing loved ones normal?
Yes, it’s normal to not want the people we love to die. We enjoy their company, and know life would be very different without them.
We also don’t talk enough about death in modern culture. So there can be a certain amount of fear simply because we don’t fully know what we would be dealing with.
Freud coined a fear of death and dying ‘thanatophobia‘, and felt we all suffer from it because we refuse to accept our mortality. Modern psychologists call this common fear plain old ‘death anxiety’.
A healthy or unhealthy fear?
A normal fear of loss involves worry and sadness when we think about our loved ones moving on, followed by an understanding it’s an unavoidable fact of life. It can mean a moment spent considering our own mortality. But in general, we realise we would cope.
An unhealthy fear of losing loved ones is more like a rising anxiety, and comes with extreme thinking. We feel our life would be over without the other person.
The more we think about losing the loved person in question, the worse we feel. Anxiety symptoms kick in, which can include:
What is the fear beneath the fear?
Loss of a loved one an easy thing to place all our worries on because it is an acceptable anxiety.
So sometimes we use a fear of losing loved ones to hide other fears we are more ashamed of, like fear of:
Why is it so important to admit to these ‘fears beneath the fear’? They are actually easier to deal with.
We can’t stop other people around us from one day dying. But we can find support to learn new ways of being, and take steps forward so that we no longer feel overwhelmed at the idea of being responsible for navigating our own life.
Fear of losing loved ones and codependency
Fear of losing loved ones can hide a problem with codependency. Codependency involves taking your sense of self and worth from another person, instead of developing it within.
If you are in a codependent relationship you will feel it is your responsibility to constantly make the other person happy, and that you don’t know who you are without them.
Despite telling yourself that you just ‘really love’ the other person, codependency is not a healthy way of relating. It leaves you unable to see all your inner resources and personal power.
Allowing yourself to move out and become independent can make a real difference. But codependency can also be a very powerful pattern, and you might need to reach out for some professional support to understand your feelings and learn to raise your self-esteem.
How can I stop worrying about losing a loved one?
Trying to totally stop anxiety or worries tends to backfire, and we end up thinking about the topic more than ever.
So the first step can be acceptance. Accept that you are experiencing anxiety around losing a loved one. Then try the following:
1. Make a list of all your concerns.
Anxiety is powerful because it feels out of control, sending our thoughts on endless spirals. But if we take the time to sit and write out on paper what is behind the anxiety? Our life can be less out of control than we think.
What are the very worse things that would happen if you lost your loved one? That you wouldn’t have a place to live, or anyone to talk to? What are possible solutions to each problem?
2. Identify what you’ve already lost.
You might be more resilient than you realise. Loss is a part of life and you’ve likely already successfully navigated some, and come through the other side.
Write out things you really valued that you lost, whether that was a childhood friend moving away, or having to graduate from a school you liked being at. See if you can remember what you did to navigate that loss and bounce back.
3. Practise mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a technique to help you stay in the present moment, instead of being lost to worries about a future you can control and a past you can’t change. We can become more grateful for what is right in front of us.
Read our easy how-to ‘Guide to Mindfulness‘ and start practising as soon as today.
4. Learn about death and dying.
Major cities now have what are known as ‘death cafes’. These are gatherings for people to come and discuss their fears of death and dying with a ‘death doula’, someone who understands the process. Even simple things like learning how a funeral is arranged and how the grieving process works can demystify the process we all at some point face.
Visit a ‘death cafe’, read about other people’s experiences, or ask people you know who have gone through a bereavement to share their story.
5. Talk about your fear with supportive others.
You might want to share you anxiety with your loved one themselves. If this seems a bad idea, try a trusted friend or family member.
Feel nobody would understand your anxiety about losing a loved one? Then speak to a counsellor. Your school might have free or low cost counselling if you are a student, or your workplace might provide several free sessions. If you are over 18, you can book counselling privately, with therapists now available for every budget.
Need proper help with your out-of-control fear of losing a loved one? We connect you with London’s top talk therapists. Or use our booking site to find UK-wide registered therapists and online counsellors you can talk to from anywhere.
Andrea M. Darcy is a lifestyle and wellbeing writer as well as a coach who often writes about relationships. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy