Parenting Through Anxiety Fueled by Grief
When my father died I wasn’t prepared for it. It was supposed to be a happy time in our lives. I was pregnant with my parents’ first grandchild, and everyone was thrilled. My father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was estimated to live a few more years. My pregnancy became the focus of happiness and life away from the inevitable loss on the horizon. We just didn’t know it was going to happen so soon.
When I was five months pregnant, we lost him and I shut down. Usually I have no problem talking openly about my feelings and understanding the pain that comes with them. This time, I just buried it all. I found it necessary to skip the grieving process to continue with a safe pregnancy. My focus was on keeping my baby healthy, positive and delivering her unharmed. I knew none of us could handle another loss. I had to be strong.
There is a price that comes with burying something so important. I found this out shortly after the birth of my daughter. It began with starting to feel panic over taking my baby in the car. I did it, but I suffered extreme anxiety. I would sit in my rocker and cry thinking about what might happen were I to be in a car accident resulting in her injury or death — how I would want to die if my baby died.
It wasn’t only just anxiety over losing her. I felt anxiety over her losing me.
Often I would need to pull to the side of the road to calm down when driving alone. I would hope people didn’t call me to have dinner or meet to go shopping because I was plagued with a desperate fear that I would die and my beautiful, sweet daughter would grow up without her mommy’s protection. I grew frustrated whenever someone invited me out. I resented it because in my mind it was a risk. I couldn’t leave my daughter. What if I didn’t ever make it back?
I started to experience dizzy spells when out in public. At the park, watching my daughter go down the slide I would feel panic beginning to take over. Chugging down the bottle of water I’d brought with me and eating a grain bar I would try and tell myself everything was fine, it was just a panic attack, nothing was going to happen. No matter how much I tried to talk myself out of feeling the extreme anxiety, it would never completely go away. Things got worse.
I began to have what my therapist called “daymares.” Basically I would have a nightmare while being completely awake. Going for a walk with my daughter I’d suddenly be taken over by a fear, and that fear would turn into a deep thought process where I envisioned myself passing out, my daughter left with no one to watch her as an oncoming car would speed her way.
These kinds of daymares happened often. My husband would see the look of horror on my face and question what was wrong. I didn’t know how to tell him nothing was wrong in reality, but in my head there was death, pain and endless fear. I realized I truly had no control over my situation, and I needed to get better fast. It wasn’t fair that my daughter had a mother who feared the world. My illness was debilitating and getting worse every day. When my husband won a trip to the Caribbean, my first reaction was terror — not joy, terror. All I could think about was how I didn’t want to instill this sort of fear in my young daughter. I felt like I was failing as a mother.
She deserved better, and so I finally began my grieving period.
I connected with my family, my therapist and did I could to come to terms with what I’d ignored for so long.
I no longer feel the fear of driving distances. No longer do I envision my child’s death. I no longer fear the future. I know this is not the last time I will experience anxiety and depression. I know this is not the last time I will experience a death. I just hope in the future I will be able to handle things better because there is someone relying on me and she’s not going anywhere.
Perhaps tackling the pain head on is the way to deal. I don’t know. What I know is I can’t allow things to go on as they did before. My daughter deserves for me to be the best parent I can be — the kind of parent my father was and my mother still is.
She deserves mother who can show her the world without fear — someone who can prove there is a silver lining behind every cloud and a dream following every nightmare.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.