The Anxiety I Had About Change After My Mum's Death

There are many things I didn’t foresee happening after the death of my mum, but one affecting me the most has been the fear of change.

I’m not talking about simply feeling uncomfortable about changes… my fear of change is intense and affects many aspects of my life. Change genuinely scares me.

The underlying ‘illogical logic’ of my fear is I’m afraid that if something changes from the way it was when my mum was alive, a part of her is taken away that I’ll never get back. I fear I’ll forget, and I’ll not be the same person and the world won’t be the same world that had my mum in it.

If the change is something I have no control over, I panic and I feel helpless. For example, the city where I live and grew up in with my mum went under development recently. The streets now look different from when I walked through them with mum — not much different, but they’ve changed, and I’ll never be able to change them back. Similarly, one day I got home from school to find that someone had put a rug in the hallway that wasn’t there before — this sent me into sheer panic. I had to remove the rug, I had to. I was yelled at, I got in trouble, but no one was stopping me from fixing things. My mind wouldn’t stop screaming and my body wouldn’t relax until I had put things “right.”

If the change is one I initiate myself, I feel the same panic, but I also feel additional guilt and shame. Last year, after a lot of thought and fear, I finally decided to get my hair cut (quite a lot shorter than it was). While my hair had obviously grown and changed over the years since losing my mum, I felt attached to it with my theory of “It’s still physically the same hair that was here when mum was.” Ultimately, what motivated the final decision to cut my hair was to challenge my fear of change. I had to prove to myself that cutting my hair didn’t mean something bad would happen. I reminded myself the world wouldn’t end, I wouldn’t forget mum and it wasn’t a shameful and disrespectful act against mum.

I find the changes that really hit my core with anxiety are the ones where special memories are attached. I recently moved out of my home to go to university, and the hardest part of the move was having to change my childhood bedroom because I was taking a lot of my belongings with me as I moved cities. It’s been months since the move and the bedroom changes and I still worry about it occasionally, but I’m OK.

As difficult as the changes in the world and my life are now, I know it’s healthy to let them happen. The fear took a while for me to recognize, but now I can acknowledge it, reflect on why I’m scared of a certain change and try to find a way to move through it. I still struggle a lot, and I’m still working on it, but that’s fine! With time comes change. These two things can feel like the absolute enemy, but they’re something we have no control over. Time heals, change is necessary.

The most important thing to remember is no matter what changes arise in your life, the person you lost will remain with you — it’s their presence inside your heart and memories that holds on to them, not the rest of the world around you. Change is inevitable and it’s hard, but it gets easier — I promise.

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