How Real Are Your Fears

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There is more than one kind of fear associated with grief. Practical fears relate to things like “Who’s going to take care of me when I am sick? Where do I go when my car needs work? What do I do when the bank statement comes? He/she took care of those things and now I am alone and afraid.”

Free-floating anxiety paralyzes many. We might ask someone, “Of what are you afraid?” And their answer is “Everything! I just have a feeling something bad is going to happen.” Then comes panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorders.

Non-specific threats relate to the feelings after a loss that others we love will die. We have a “feeling” that doomsday is just around the corner. and end up with PTSD and more panic attacks unless we get that tape to stop playing in our heads.

C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” Surveys will show that most people associate sadness as the major component of grief, but I contend what we feel is fear. Our feet have been kicked out from under us. 

Author Susie Newman said it this way: “Death is such a tragic and scary thing. The grim reaper kidnapping our loved ones like a murderer and the living are left in a grief-stricken panic. The griever now lives life like a wounded soldier with a hole in his heart and a hundred-pound bag of sorrow strapped to his back.”

Being stuck in grief is what one person described as a “feeling of being shipwrecked.” We are called upon to wish for tools and resources we do not have. Irish author John Banville said, “What I was afraid of was my own grief… and the stark awareness I had of being, for the first time in my life entirely alone, a Crusoe shipwrecked and stranded in the limitless wastes of a boundless and indifferent ocean.” How are we going to not only survive but thrive? Our life story is not yet finished!

When you go to your doctor’s office or are being assessed as a patient in the hospital, your caretakers are very interested in assessing your pain levels from zero to 10. That’s a starting place to begin looking for a solution leading to your feeling better.  Fear can be assessed the same way. “With zero being unafraid and ten being the most scared you’ve ever been in your life — what is your fear number today? 

Psalm 118:6 = (New King James Version)
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Overcoming the fear of the unknown relates to how well we deal with the fear of the known. Give that fear a name. Get help from a counselor or trusted friend to specifically define your fear, and take another step toward facing your fears, rather than running away. This is where a good support system is invaluable! 

How real are your fears? 

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Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at

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