He said he is suffering fear, and he does not know why. He has installed a security system, but he is not afraid of anything in particular, so the security system has not made him feel any less fearful or more secure. He is confused and asking for help.
I offered an explanation off the top of my head. “Your identity has changed. Your life as you have known it, and lived it, is gone. Perhaps you are feeling insecure about your life, your future, and you have labeled it fear.” I continued, “For over 50 years, you have been your wife’s husband. She has cooked all of your meals, washed your clothes, gone on vacation with you, visited you at work, and had your children. Before no matter what happened in your life, or what changed in your life, she was always there with you, experiencing it with you, supporting you through it, she was constant. The two of you were one couple. Your lives together were one life, now you are alone. Your identity with her by your side is over. You are only one person now, no longer a couple. One person, alone.”
I believe insecurity can feel like fear. I never have before thought of it in words or concepts. C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, writes, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.”
In comparison, the symptoms of fear and grief are very similar. Grief feels like fear because one has the same reeling feelings of uncertainty. When one’s spouse dies, the survivor might experience uncertainties of income, companionship, tasks, living accommodations, etc. While fear tends to focus on the future, grief tends to focus on the past. One fears the impending loss of their loved one and experiences grief upon the realization of that loss.
Anxiety and fear also carry similar feelings. Anxiety is the apprehension one experiences in the absence of a specific danger. One experiences fear once the danger has been identified. The internal feelings of chaos, however, are nearly the same; it is one's knowledge that has changed.
The chaos present with fear prevents us from making decisions because we are unsure of our thought patterns and abilities to stabilize them. Fear immobilizes us and causes our progress to stagnate. Fear steals innovation and motivation and invites us to reject change, even when it is clearly better for us.
Courage develops from fear. The realization of danger allows us to identify and create a method to overcome it. Once we quell the chaos within our minds, fear begins to subside, and courage propels us to a better outcome.
I do not believe my client is suffering fear; I believe he is suffering grief. I believe he has labeled it fear because the reeling uncertainties of grief feel like the reeling uncertainties of fear. As he organizes his new life without his wife by his side, he will begin to feel calmer. Eventually, he will recover from the loss of his wife. He is a highly functioning individual, so it is likely that he will discover this on his own. I have learned a lot from my client's question this week; it has encouraged me to understand a facet of grief that I had not explored before. It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on, so I will call him this week and offer him a copy of my article. I hope it helps.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.