What Next? How To Cope With The Fear Of Losing Someone

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Losing someone you deeply care about life can be one of the most difficult moments in life with which to come to terms, and yet almost all of us eventually lose someone we love. The feelings connected with a loss can encompass a spectrum of intense emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, and denial. But what can we do if we are faced with the fear of losing someone before it even happens? Sometimes feelings of anxiety can set in before the loss, which can be hard to process.  Other times, the fear may exist without any known cause. In this article, we will explore how to recognize these fears and offer strategies to help manage these feelings. In increasing our knowledge and understanding about how loss affects us, we may find encouragement and support as we work through the grieving process. 

Afraid of losing someone?

Types of loss

When we think of the loss of a loved one, we often think of death. However, there are many types of loss, and each can be difficult to manage in their own way. Sometimes we do not recognize certain scenarios as the reason for feeling afraid or grieving, because they are not on the same loss level as death. However, these situations can be just as distressing.  Remember that, while these losses are painful to experience, your act of acknowledging and allowing yourself to grieve is part of your path to healing.

Loss of a partner

If you have been in a long-term relationship or marriage and it is about to end, the feelings of fear and grief surrounding this loss can be painful on many levels.  You may also find you experience conflicting emotions, such as feelings of relief accompanied by deep sadness. 

Loss of a friendship

There are many reasons a friendship can end: growing apart over time, a change of values, a dramatic bust-up, or a long-distance move. In any situation, it is natural to feel a sense of loss of letting go of someone whom you cherish. 

Loss of a family member

Relationships can be at times troublesome, and with some family members, there may be a lifetime of good times mixed in with challenges. In some of these cases, there may need to be a break for the mental health of one or the other. While a net positive, this space can also bring on feelings of loss and sadness. 

Loss of a social circle

For those who leave a job or move to a new geographic area, there may be a loss of their social group. A person may also experience a sense of absence when they lose contact with another member of their group.

Death of a loved one

Even when the death of a loved one is inevitable, the pain of the loss is still real.  Most of us have or will lose someone we love in our lifetime. 

Are your fears evidence-based?

When examining fears related to losing a loved one, there is a question that can be important to ask yourself: are my fears evidence-based? That is, are you fearful of losing someone who is at a high risk of dying or leaving? A friend with cancer and a poor prognosis, or a husband who has announced that your marriage is over are both examples of fears based on evidence.  In this case, you may be experiencing “anticipatory grief”, that is, a grieving process that begins before the event itself occurs. This type of grief is also called premature or preparatory grief and occurs unconsciously when a person’s stability is shaken, such as with a diagnosis of a life-threatening medical condition.  

You may also be experiencing fear because of the possibility that you will lose someone you love dearly, however, there is no definite cause of this fear. Do you continually worry about possibilities that could take a loved one from you, and play them out in your thoughts?  These types of feelings can be symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), in which people experience excessive worry over potential scenarios that can interfere with daily life. 

These fears may also be caused by increased levels of stress or circumstances that remind you of a past loss. In any of these cases, if your fears are becoming unmanageable or are creating a challenge in your day-to-day life, it may be helpful for you to speak to a licensed therapist. They can help you put these fears into perspective and offer coping techniques to manage these feelings over time. 

Strategies for coping with loss or fear of loss

If a loss in your life is inevitable, feeling fearful can be a completely natural response. However, if these fears are overwhelming and affecting your quality of life, finding positive outlets that help you work through these feelings can be helpful. Here are some ways that you can cope with fear and other intense emotions surrounding loss or inevitable loss. 

Understand the grieving process

Preparing yourself for loss by learning about the process of grieving can help, as the knowledge of what to expect may relieve some of the fear. You can begin by understanding how the grieving process may work. First and foremost, grieving is a highly personalized experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it is called a process for a reason. Grief can happen all at once or be gradual - you may find that you move forward and then back again. Many people may find themselves experiencing one emotion, such as sadness or anger, for a period of time before moving forward. 

Stages of grief

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is known for writing about the psychological reaction to imminent death in her book titled On Death and Dying.  Kubler-Ross interviewed several terminally ill patients to explore the experience of dying and found there were five major “stages” of the grieving process. 

The Kubler-Ross stages of grief include the following:

  • Denial – Difficulty comprehending the reality of the loss

  • Anger – May also manifest as blame (someone else is held responsible for the loss)

  • Bargaining - Driven by the need to have some sense of control over the situation

  • Depression – Characterized by feelings of sadness, anhedonia, and fatigue

  • Acceptance – Often followed by enjoying the time they have left and planning for what is ahead

However, these stages are not meant to be a rigid framework. Some may not experience one or more stages. Some may skip a stage or revisit a stage. They also do not represent stages, such as steps in a ladder to the culmination of acceptance. Each stage of grief is an important and healthy facet of the process. Understanding these stages helps encourage empathy and support for yourself and others around you. 

Allow yourself to feel

While there is no “wrong” way to grieve, you can hinder the process by trying to repress natural feelings. If you are feeling afraid of loss, it is okay to feel those feelings, and it may be beneficial to do so. Allow the process to work. You may find it easier to write down your feelings in a journal or talk to a trusted friend. Speaking to a mental health therapist is also a way you can let go of painful feelings in a safe and supportive environment. 

Take care of your physical health

Grieving is complex and can be exhausting, which can take a toll on your physical health. Many people experience loss of sleep and appetite, which can make it difficult to focus on self-care. Physical symptoms can also be a part of the grieving process and healthy choices may help to relieve or decrease the impact of these symptoms. Healthy lifestyle practices can have a positive impact on mental health, so taking care of your body may help you to feel better emotionally. Consider the following healthy lifestyle suggestions: 

Reach out to loved ones

For some people, grief or fear of loss can cause them to draw away from others. However, expressing your feelings with loved ones can create connections that may help lessen the emotional burden. If you participate in hobbies or group activities, try to continue your participation and keep your connections open. 

Therapy for loss

Whether you are experiencing fear of losing a loved one who is likely to die or experiencing feelings of anxiety that a loved one may die without evidence of this fact, therapy can be helpful in managing these feelings. In the former case, a licensed therapist can help you come to terms with the situation and guide you through the grieving process. In the latter case, a licensed therapist can help you identify where your feelings of anxiety may stem from and offer a series of coping mechanisms to help you manage those feelings. 

Afraid of losing someone?

Online therapy 

While looking for a therapist, you may have found that you have several options, including in-person and online therapy - both effective ways for you to seek professional advice. Online therapy is convenient as you participate in therapy from the comfort of your own home and is supported by research as a beneficial alternative to in-person therapy. For those who may not have in-person therapy, are not comfortable meeting face-to-face, or are not insured for therapy and would like to find a more affordable option, online therapy can be an effective and supportive alternative. 

Research has shown that online therapy is effective in treating symptoms of depression, grief, and other mental health symptoms after bereavement. If you have experienced a loss and are interested in speaking with a therapist, BetterHelp can help match you with a therapist that fits your needs. This online platform gives you the flexibility to schedule appointments that are convenient for you and gives you the opportunity to meet with them over video chat.

Takeaway

Fear of losing a loved one can be a completely natural reaction, but you do not manage this feeling or difficult emotions alone. You can look for support from your family or friends. Further, if you feel like your fears have become overwhelming, in-person or online therapy can be an effective solution to putting these feelings into perspective.

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