At the beginning of I Can’t Stop Crying, I chose a quote from C.S. Lewis that says so much but that seldom gets attention.
After the death of his wife he wrote,
“ I am not afraid, but no one told me it would feel so much like fear”.
When life brings you face to face with grief, there are a number of feelings that you will have to try to cope with. Of them, fear, is among the most difficult.
If you haven’t had to deal with a very significant loss, then you might wonder what fear has to do with grief?
If you have struggled with being left to face the rest of your life without someone who you were deeply connected to, then fear may strike a cord with you.
The uncertainty of things that you counted on and things that you thought were stable are shaken to the point where everything feels untrustworthy.
If you have ever been on skates but are not a comfortable skater, you might recall the relief that you felt getting off the ice and putting your shoes back on. The shaky, uncertain footing is left behind.
If you have ever walked on a frozen body of water and realized part way into your journey that the ice is not as frozen as you thought, then you understand the fear that grief brings with it.
There are very few things in life that we consider to be sure and certain. Even though every person knows absolutely that we will all die one day, almost every person that I have ever known who faces the death of someone that they love, are thrown into shock, disbelief and panic when death arrives.
In that moment and the many days, weeks and months that follow, there is nothing that seems real or trustworthy.
Sometimes we use the words surreal or unreal to describe things experienced but not really understood.
Having someone that you love die, regardless of the circumstances, falls into this category. You hear the words and experience the absence of the person that you love, but it can’t be.
There is no way that this is happening to you.
There is no way that the ice is cracking under your feet.
You worked it out, you did the math, and you had very different plans for your life and their life than what reality is telling you.
There are times that I awaken in the middle of the night and become quite frightened of possibilities.
I worry about illness or instability or the future or money or old age or even an unrealistic weather event. And when I get wound up with a concern, everything feels shaky and untrustworthy.
In those moments the sky is truly falling and I am doomed.
Usually within minutes and often with help, I am able to gain my stability and balance and see that there really is no wolf in the room. I can breathe easy.
For those who have recently had someone they love die, there is no such moment of clarity. For them it’s all thin ice and skates that they can’t get off and they feel fear because nothing is certain and stable and only the cracking ice separates them from falling into the cold water below.
The familiar is gone, the future is gone and any hope of balance and certainty has vanished too.
If you feel this way, know that you have not lost your mind.
Try to find a way to express yourself and realize that you feel the way you do because you are in an unreal and untrustworthy place.
You will need to work at and through your feelings before you can again begin to feel balanced.
If there are those who want to help you try telling them what it’s like for you and if need be, show them this. It may be helpful for both of you.