Few things in life are scarier than the thought of losing a loved one. On some level, most of us realize that everything comes to an end. We usually do our best not to think about it.
But some things can bring it to the front of our minds—for example, when someone we love gets sick. Or during a major crisis like a natural disaster… or a global pandemic. Sometimes it’s on our minds simply because we’ve lost someone before. When we feel depressed or anxious, our minds can become fixated on negative thoughts like this.
Fear and anxiety often come from uncertainty. There are some things we can never know for sure: What will happen to my loved ones, and when? What will happen to me if I lose them? We can’t see the future. But there are things we can do to manage our fear and anxiety about it.
Understand that you’re not alone
It’s totally normal to fear losing someone. The fear of loss is something everyone has experienced at one time or another.
And if worse comes to worst and you do lose someone, you can make it through this. Humans are incredibly resilient. We bounce back! People have been suffering from grief and loss—and overcoming it—for as long as we’ve existed.
Finding someone you can talk to about your fears can make a huge difference. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member, try finding an online support group or talking to a therapist.
Focus on what you can control
One way to cope with fear is to think about whether there’s anything you can reasonably do to control the situation. If there is, do it. If there isn’t, try to let it go. Once you’ve done all you can, worrying about it more won’t do any good—it will only wear you out.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example. If you’re worried about a loved one getting sick, what can you reasonably do? You can wear a mask to avoid spreading the virus. You can avoid traveling except when necessary. You can get vaccinated, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.
What you can’t do is control other people’s behavior. You can’t force other people to wear a mask or get vaccinated—but you can avoid spending time around people who aren’t being careful.
There are certain things that give us the illusion of control. Washing your hands after you touch things in public is a good way to prevent the spread of illness—but washing your hands 10 times more often won’t make you 10 times safer. Worrying and obsessing over the situation also won’t help.
You can try a journaling activity to determine what you can and can’t control: Write down what you’re afraid might happen. Then, make a list of all the things you can and can’t control about the situation. Letting go of what you can’t control is easier said than done, but you can learn to do it by practicing.
Making meaning out of fear and loss
Our emotions help us make sense of the world around us. Even painful emotions like fear and grief have an important purpose.
Fear can motivate us to do what we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Thinking about future losses can help us to appreciate what we still have.
Many people are able to find comfort in their belief systems. Some people believe that our loved ones live on after death, and we will see them again. Others believe that a piece of them lives on within us. For some people, this life is the only one we get, and that’s what makes it beautiful and valuable. If you’re not sure what you believe, that’s ok too—learning to live with uncertainty can be good for your mental health!
We wish we could guarantee you that you won’t lose your loved one. It’s heartbreaking to say, but losing people is a part of life. But you’re surrounded by people who understand that fear and have overcome it. And that can be a source of hope.