I recently done a live Instagram call with @neshamajourney and she asked me if I feel I have PTSD from my mum’s sudden death. This really got me thinking because I had never looked at it in this way because when I initial think PTSD I think about people that have gone to war or been in a serious car accident. In recent years I have realised and acknowledged that my mum’s death was traumatic for me to deal with at 15 years old, being a young girl that doesn’t know CPR or first aid and having your mum collapse and die in front of you, well yeah of course it’s pretty traumatic.
Anyway, I have been wanting to write a post about the missing stage of grief that is anxiety however I find it’s hard to put into words but after the live I got a lot of lovely comments about being so open with my anxiety so I thought its time to get this post done.
For the first two/three years after my mum died, I was still a teenager, getting my GCSE’S and a level’s during the weekdays and getting drunk on the weekends (well sometime weekdays we all loved a tiger tiger Thursday). I feel like I kept myself so busy and looking back now it was a coping mechanism. I moved schools because I didn’t want the constant pity from teachers, at the time just wanted to be known as Emma again and not the girls whose mum had just died. I was just on auto pilot and Its weird to even say this because I used to feel guilty for being happy so shortly after my mum died but my sixth form years where some of the best, I very much lived in the moment during them years.
And then I went to university and I think this is when things changed for me. Moving to the other side of the country where I knew no one was probably the best thing I could have done for myself but it also gave my space away from family and people that knew me all my life and this space meant my grief came at me like a tonne of bricks. I kept it together at home for my family and because I generally was ok, I hadn’t given myself the time to process properly, yes, I did grieve in them first few years but my grief never affected my mental health until I got to university and this is when the anxiety began. My anxiety came in waves and I do feel the stress of university deadlines, the constant drinking, partying and hangovers played a part in heightening how I was feeling.
So what anxiety am I actually talking about? It was about me or my closest friends and family dying. Which kind of makes sense if you have lost someone close to then you’re going to worry about it happening again because you don’t want to experience that pain again. However, my anxiety kind of got the better or me sometimes and kind of in the way of my life. Ill give you couple of examples:
- Every time I would drive to or from uni it’s a 3 hours journey down the M4 and M25 I would have it in my head that I was going to be in a car crash and die. Like this thought would be in my head the night before I drove and then the whole time I was driving home. You could imagine the anxiety and stress that came when my car actually broke down on the M4. I have never been the best driver and actually sold my car to go traveling so this doesn’t happen to me anymore but I’m sure one day it will pop back into my mind because your anxiety does just reappear at the most random times.
- Another trigger for me and this still triggers my anxiety to this day, when people don’t answer their phone or reply to texts within a certain time. My sister has always been someone that faints easily and I remember a time she had felt dizzy and text me that while be home with lily by herself, so I have rung her to check on her and she wouldn’t answer the phone. Automatically my mind says ‘omg Danielle’s fainted and hit her head all in front of lily and lily won’t know what to do’ she would then ring me back like sorry the doorbell rang or I was putting the washing away, like something so little would put my mind into over drive. Another one would be if someone says to me ill text you when I get home and you don’t receive that ‘I’m home’ text I automatically think the worst has happened to them on there way home.
- If close friends and family fall ill these triggers me because my brain says ‘there could be something underlying like there was with mum even though the doctors have said there fine. I remember a time at university a very close friend of mine at the time (his been mentioned in my mental health post) was strugglingly with anxiety and he had really bad chest pains and couldn’t breathe. My mind told me his having a heart attack but the ambulance came out and monitored him it was a panic attack but I was determined something more was wrong and worried a lot.
- I think this is the one where I realised my anxiety was a problem and told my family was when my niece was born. I think it all got a lot more intense then because I was so anxious about anything happening to this tiny human that I loved so much. So, when Lily was born like literally just born my sister was exhausted from the birth so fell asleep and I was the only one left at the hospital with them. I sat and just watched this tiny baby’s chest go up and down for hours, if I couldn’t see her chest moving id touch her to make sure she moved and was still alive. Pretty mental really when we were in a hospital full of nurses, I should have been most relaxed.
Another came when my niece started eating real food, I couldn’t feed her or watch her eat because my mind told me she was going to choke on her food and the worst would happen. My niece is now 4 healthy happy and I can watch her eat now haha but yeah, the thought of anything happening to her literally sent my mind into overdrive and I guess that shows how much you care for someone cause its always the closest people to me that I worry about when my anxiety flares up.
- This pandemic, what a wild year we have been living. Sadly, the grief community has grown a lot this year whether that be deaths due to COVID-19 or deaths of people that can’t cope mentally with the struggles or people that haven’t be able to have treatment. This year really set my anxiety off, honestly the start of the pandemic I was a reck constantly worried that someone in my family was going to get it and die. The constant reminder of death got to me and is still triggering but I am very fortunate that all my family have either been healthy through out or have got over COVID-19.
So yeah, I just really wanted to open up about the anxiety I have suffered since losing my mum so others maybe able to relate and not feel like there going slightly mad because I honestly did at the beginning, I hadn’t had any thoughts like this ever until that point and felt very alone in them thoughts.
I feel like everyone talks about Elisabeth Kübler’s theory the 5 stages of grief:
And yes, I do feel over time we all experience these stages not necessarily in order but at some point, I have been through all 5 but like Claire Bidwell Smith wrote ‘Anxiety, the missing stage of grief’ and it’s the stage I was never expecting to experience.
For anyone that is struggling with anxiety follow a death or years on from a death then I highly recommend reading Claire’s book, its wonderfully written and gave me so much insight to how I was feelings and kind of answered so many questions I didn’t know I had.
So, to conclude on this post I was not prepared for the anxiety that came with the death of my mum and after reflecting on the Instagram live, I do feel I suffer slight PTSD since losing my mum and I’m not sure that will ever change.
Remember you’re not alone and talking about the impact grief had on our day to day lives and our minds means together we can make grief a more open and less awkward conversation to talk about.
Lots of Love the Girl with Grief x