How To Cope With The Fear Of Losing Someone | Discover What to Do

By Corrina Horne |Updated August 1, 2022

Losing people we love can be frightening. In childhood, losing a beloved toy is often nothing less than devastating. In adolescence, losing a cherished and trusted friend can alter the entire trajectory of your life. In adulthood, losing a trusted partner is normally incredibly difficult. A series of losses in childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood can cause distressing feelings to grow as you age and can lead to the outright fear of losing someone you love. It could also be that, with age, you realize that people won’t be around forever, regardless of past experiences. This fear is valid; it’s one of the toughest things to go through in life for many and can be their worst fear. All of that is to say, there are times when the fear starts to affect your life, mental health, and even your relationships with other people, negatively. How, then, can you overcome the fear of losing a loved one?

Why Does This Fear Of Losing Someone Grow?

It’s not uncommon for the fear of losing someone you love to begin in childhood. Although childhood loss and trauma might not seem related to romance and romantic relationships, your childhood relationships generally form the bedrock for all of your future relationships, and you very often carry the wounds inflicted by parental relationships and friendships in childhood well into adulthood. A common source of this fear is parental neglect or abuse.* Oftentimes, otherwise incredible parents do not even realize they are being neglectful. This is partially because some don’t realize that emotional neglect is a form of neglect, too. The parent who works strenuously to provide for their family might feel as though they are parenting beautifully; after all, the children are fed, enjoy a robust education, and have all they could ever want. However, they may unintentionally neglect, overlook, or underestimate the emotional needs of a child. This can sometimes influence the way a person attaches to others or experiences and copes with feelings.

Loss can also prompt feelings of fear for future losses. If a loved one has died, or someone you loved and trusted left or betrayed you, you can develop a strong fear of having the same thing happen again. Very often, these feelings are not easily recognized and identified, but function as a silent undercurrent to your day-to-day life and only show themselves when a new relationship has begun. These feelings can show up in the form of clingy and controlling behavior, unrealistic demands placed on your partner, and the need to be in constant communication.

Furthermore, a need to be in control (or fear of a loss of control) can translate to a fear of loss or abandonment. We cannot control everything in life, even though we want to. This means death, loss, and abandonment are beyond our control no matter what we do to prevent them. However, some people struggle to accept this, so their fear of losing control may grow into a fear of losing someone or being abandoned.

Later experiences and mental health can also influence the fear of loss. For example, a person might live with an anxiety disorder, or they could’ve faced loss in their life and developed a fear as a result. The good news is that what you’re going through can improve and doesn’t have to be forever.

*Please contact the national domestic violence hotline — available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — at 1.800.799.7233 or visit their website at https://www.thehotline.org if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse.

Symptoms Of The Fear Of Loss

afraid afraid of losing afraid of losing someone

Learn How To Cope With The Fear Of Loss

Fearing the loss of loved ones is fairly typical and does not necessarily indicate a larger problem. It is when fear becomes overwhelming, debilitating, or otherwise problematic that you may need to seek help.

What Are The Symptoms Of Fear That Has Gone Too Far?

If you find yourself pushing your loved ones away or failing to cultivate relationships as a whole because you fear the worst possible outcome, your fear has potentially grown problematic. If you cannot connect with the loved ones you already have because you are afraid of how much it will hurt if they pass away or leave, you may need to address this fear of loss.

Furthermore, if you are experiencing these fears as well as a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, then your fear of death and loss is significantly affecting your mental health. If this is the case, you should seek professional help to overcome these fears.

If you find yourself avoiding love, closeness, and vulnerability, you may need to examine your relationship with loss. Avoidance is rarely a healthy behavior, and avoiding the closeness and community that friendship, love, and romance bring can cause you to miss out on a vital human experience. Although missing out on this experience may not seem like a big deal, never experiencing deep love could result in a number of negative consequences, including those in the realm of physical health; people with long-term partners consistently demonstrate greater health than those who live or do life alone. This doesn’t mean that you need to be around people 24/7. It is only to illustrate the very real importance of social relationships, however you choose to have them.

Can My Fear Of Losing Someone Be The Fear Of Loss Or Fear Of Abandonment?

The two can coincide for some people. Losing someone you love can come in many forms. Death can take your loved ones, but so can a new job, an unexpected life change, or losses in other areas. Unfortunately, loss is a part of life and cannot be inoculated against entirely. Although it seems to make sense to adopt an attitude of, “I’ll abandon you before you abandon me,” which some people do, you are likely to feel pain in both situations. Instead of experiencing the pain of not having love or your loved one, however, you may experience the pain of loss when it wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

The two can coincide for some people. Losing someone you love can come in many forms. Death can take your loved ones, but so can a new job, an unexpected life change, or losses in other areas. Unfortunately, loss is a part of life and cannot be inoculated against entirely. Although it seems to make sense to adopt an attitude of, “I’ll abandon you before you abandon me,” which some people do, you are likely to feel pain in both situations. Instead of experiencing the pain of not having love or your loved one, however, you may experience the pain of loss when it wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

How To Overcome Your Fear Of Loss

If you recognize that your fear of loss is taking over your life and mental health, there are a few things that you can do.

Accept the reality of death: Death can happen to anyone at any moment. Though that is scary to think about, that is the truth. No matter what we do with our lives, we and our loved ones will die at some point. Therefore, one of the best ways to overcome your fears is to accept reality. Learn to make peace with the fact that you will lose a loved one someday and that this is normal for everyone in the world.

Focus on the present: Instead of fearing what will happen in the future, enjoy the present moments that you have with your loved ones. Focusing on a fearful future does nothing but make the present more miserable. Enjoying the current moment with your loved one will make a huge difference in your mental health and will take your attention away from what could potentially happen in the future.

Seek professional help: If these thoughts and fears are taking over your life, then it is best to talk to someone about them. Fear of death and loss often has deeper roots, such as a fear of abandonment or of loss of control. Talking to a professional about these fears and their potential causes may help you to release them as well as find ways to look at the future with optimism.

Treatment Options

Fear of abandonment is a thought pattern that can be worked on in therapy. You can also work on other fears that impact your life, trauma, and other matters that may coincide with these concerns in therapy. There are many diverse modalities of therapy out there, and the distinct treatment method that makes for the best fit will vary from person to person based on a number of factors, such as previous methods of treatment you might’ve engaged in, the most pressing concern at the time you seek help, personal preferences, specific diagnoses, and so on. 

There are currently no pharmaceutical options available for abandonment, but related conditions may be treated medicinally. Many people who live with abandonment issues can also experience depression, anxiety, or both. These conditions, as well as other mental health diagnoses, can be treated with therapy and medication that supports symptom management. If this is the case, some people may use prescribed medication as part of their treatment plan. Please consult with your physician before stopping, starting, or modifying medication options. 

What To Do When You Lose Someone You Love

Sometimes, the fear of abandonment is realized, and your loved one passes away, leaves, or is taken away. Although learning to deal with the fear itself is important, you may at some point have to cope with your worst fear being realized. The manner in which you grieve will likely depend on the circumstances surrounding your loss and other factors; but many of the symptoms of grief will be the same. When you’ve lost a loved one, there are some healthy ways to cope.

  1. Let Yourself Grieve. If you lose a loved one, regardless of circumstances, it is healthy to allow yourself to grieve. It may be tempting to try to leap into a new relationship or find a quick replacement for your loss, but this is likely to do more damage than good. Grieving is usually not a linear process; you’re not likely to grieve for a few days, weeks, or months, then move on. Instead, grief can ebb and flow, and appear without warning months or even years down the road — and that is okay. Give yourself the space and grace to grieve.
  2. Take Some Time. If you’ve lost a loved one to death, abandonment, or any other source, give yourself time to slow down and rest. While you may not be able to take time off work, school, or your responsibilities for as long as you’d like, carve out time to care for yourself, turn to your support system, and do anything else that is most effective and healthy for you. Losing someone can be emotionally exhausting, sure, but it can also take a lot out of you mentally and physically, so you might need to take additional time to rest.
  3. Allow Yourself To Feel. You’re most likely going to feel a lot of emotion. You could feel despair and pain one minute, and overwhelming nervousness or anger the next. That’s okay; shifts in mood are frequently part of the grieving and loss processes. You might also encounter intense feelings of guilt when you experience moments of joy or happiness in the midst of your pain, but this is also a rather typical experience; and it is okay to feel happiness. Allow yourself to experience a wide spectrum of emotion without pressure. You can heal, with time, effort, and space, even though the process may be long, arduous, and uncomfortable.

Love and Loss

So, how to deal with losing someone you love, or the fear of losing love? Understanding what caused the fear or contributed to it often helps. Childhood trauma, previous losses, and abuse can all explain these fears. Abandonment could’ve taken place in a romantic relationship, too. Professional help is often an incredible tool for people with fear of loss, as therapy can more effectively and carefully help identify childhood trauma, emotional damages and needs, and the roots of your fear.

Learn How To Cope With The Fear Of Loss

The fear of losing someone you love does not make you strange, broken, or flawed; instead, it means that you might need to work in your romantic relationships to learn how to trust, let go, and allow relationships to unfold in an organic, natural way. People may disappoint you, pass away unexpectedly, and sometimes, let you down and leave. When this happens, give yourself space to grieve, to feel all of your feelings (big and small), and to take time for yourself, as all of these can be incredibly useful steps to take when healing after a great loss.

Healing from loss can take a long time. It might seem like it should only take a few weeks or months — especially if your relationship was young — but healing from loss may take upwards of six months or several years, regardless of how much time you spent together. Emotional ties will determine the duration of your healing far more than the length of time you spent together. Healing from loss and easing a fear of loss are collaborative efforts that can lead to an emotionally healthy, fulfilling life, where your fears and the effects of those fears are more manageable.

Need A Hand While Healing?

If you need help healing from a fear of loss or something else that’s affecting the way you feel inside, consider seeing a therapist or counselor through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. All of the providers have different areas of specialty, and online therapy is generally less expensive than in-person therapy. Regardless of whether you find someone to work with in person or through an online therapy service, consider reaching out for support if you need it. 

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