“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I remember reading these words a few days after my husband died and nodding in the midst of my numbness. In that moment I understood what I was feeling.

You see I couldn’t cry for 4 months after he died. I just couldn’t produce any tears.

I felt this horrible nauseated feeling that would give me nightmares at night and a ghostly presence of myself during the day. I was living in the shadow of my old self and had no clue how to get out. But most of all I did not know that fear was the most prevalent feeling in my body.

The best way to describe the fear is the feeling of being lost in a big, dark forest with wild animals and you have nowhere to hide, or no means to protect yourself. It is always dark in that forest, no daylight whatsoever. This is how it felt every day. And in the midst of trying to control my fears I forgot who I was. I lost me. And gained a permanent sense of being afraid. As C.S. Lewis says so well, the dreading of the moments when the house was so empty was when I was scared the most.

I am writing this letter to you today about fear after loss because it is important to know that even when grief goes away the fear stays.

Yes, it stays for much longer than grief and it is that fear that keeps us in The Waiting room (The place between two lives). Over the last 10 years I spent half of them being very afraid and the other half being very afraid but going forth regardless.

I wish I could tell you that by the end of this letter I would be able to give you the steps to make fear go away. I wish I could do that for all of us. But what I can give you is some tried and true wisdom that will help you find yourself again and find your way back to your courage.

The first few months

You are going to be more afraid after loss than you have ever been before.

You will be afraid of the smallest things, the bigger things and everything in between.

Even when certain things were simpler before loss now they have an additional layer of fear and anxiety. Respect the fear that you feel in the beginning of your loss. Listen to the part of you that tells you to not go to the dinner, the party, take the new job, go on that date. In the beginning, if you push too much against the fear you break. Yes we break. The fear is so strong at first and we are so vulnerable that it is best to say no to a lot of the things that now make you uncomfortable and lost.

Now you may ask… but Christina, how can I learn to be courageous if I pull away from everything because I feel this anxiety. Don’t you always advise us to choose life over grief? And my answer to this question is that in the beginning of your loss it is more important to choose activities, friends and experiences that release grief and fear than add to it. So…going for a walk on the beach instead of your sister’s in law dinner is a more courageous choice than you can imagine.


The first year

You will feel as if you are not as social as before, or as friendly as before or as loving as before. And you will be correct to believe that. And I want you to be ok with it. Yep, be ok with the less social self and the less friendly self and the less loving self.

I am going to ask you to accept that part of you first and foremost. I am going to ask you to love the part of you that finds it scary to love, scary to go out and scary to make new friends. This is grief’s aftermath and it happens to us all. But this is where we are now more equipped to start reentering back to life and finding ways to combat the fear. This is when we must make a decision to both understand the fear and choose to go on regardless. Because fear after loss is an experience that doesn’t easily go away. We have been through so much trauma that the brain and the heart can’t just shake it off with some therapy, a good book and some good friends to listen to us. Unfortunately, we have to learn to live life again with fear that kind of sticks around. No matter how bold I have become in the ten years after loss I am more afraid now than I was before my loss. But have taken the biggest risks in my life too. And this is where my next point comes from.


The long journey

I believe that grief is an evolutionary experience if we learn to reenter life regardless of the fear that is sitting on our couch, sleeping in our bed and driving with us every day. When I realized this for myself, and for all the people I was helping, it made the biggest impact on my work and in my own life.

So I stopped asking myself to make big dreams come true or to prove myself, but instead I created small steps for my day to day experience. I called these 5% plug-ins and they have been one of the few reasons for being here with you today. The secret to the plug-in experience is that it has to be only for today. It has to be a very small step and it has to not make you afraid. I remember very clearly when I started going on small road trips with the girls, or when I got my first paying client for my coaching practice at the time. Or even when I started creating my model of work. It had to be about my today, my small step and sneaking out of my fear. Find things you love to do and do them.


Looking ahead

As the years go by we start to be driven by compassion and the need to help others. Compassion becomes the driver and fear sits back in the car. Compassion for others and compassion for ourselves is where we are heading, if we choose to be courageous, despite being afraid. This is when you make dinner for your neighbor who is old and has no family close by. This is when you give money to the homeless man in the street. This is when you start to listen to other’s stories and become a healing witness to them. This is when grief and fear no longer tell you what you should do and not do. You are finally driven by doing good because you know how it feels to be afraid, sad and all alone. This is how I found my way to you.


Wherever you are in the journey, remember to take small steps towards the things that make you happy. And accept this changed self. We cannot go back to where we were. But we can go forward to where we choose to be.

Life after loss is complicated but doable. And that has always been enough for me.(Click to Tweet!)

With love,




Christina Rasmussen is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur who believes that grief is an evolutionary experience required for launching a life of adventure and creative accomplishment.

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  • This is so true. When I lost my 18 year old son, it was fear of every day, of every step of every day. What will I do? How will I make it? “Lean on God, lean on others, and just do the next thing,” were words I remembered. One step at a time. This quote has helped me: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. ” – Eleanor Roosevelt
    I have also learned that essential oils are powerful for our emotions, fears, and motivation. The blends “Joy” and “Valor” have helped me tremendously.

  • Anne says:

    Thank you. Thank you so much for this.

    • Patricia McDowell says:

      Thank you for this message so many days and night my mind wonders and the tears began to flow and my heart aches from missing my mom. I keep asking myself how can go on without her. I’m reading my Bible daily praying and trusting God to get me through this. I thank you for your encouraging words and message. As I sit here and think I can feel a bit of peace in my heart knowing that grief does feel like fear ????????????

  • Cyndie Hartsell says:

    Thank you, this is so awesome.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this article. It truly helped me. I feel.comforted in being right where I am. So moved too by Jan above. Took me a long time to get over the loss of my baby during 4th month of pregnancy, the stress this n a job loss tjat caused, the death of my dad last year n strain on my primary relationship . I am getting back in the world but it’s taken time–a longtime, n maybe thatok, n human.

  • Grace says:

    Thank god your compasión took you to us, your words are wise, we feel so comforted by knowing we are going through The normal steps, ’cause sometimes we think it’s only us who feel that way but with your words and letters we know it’ll be ok, sooner or later we’ll be fine, Thank you for giving us that feeling. Love you C

  • Melanie Brzonkalik says:

    Such beautiful, honest and apt words. I can totally relate to them all – both after the loss of my baby 17 years ago and my Dad 2 years ago. In some ways I could deal or relate to the loss and grief but the fear thing, the unsettled butterfly feeling, the constantly wired brain, the big reaction to light and noise, the wanting everyone to go but dreading being alone. That. Even now I still feel wobbly and have suffered panic attacks and anxiety and hitting the menopause was the final straw for me. I have since changed jobs, changed my diet and changed my outlook and starting to embrace life and laughter again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us 🙂

  • Diana says:

    A well written post. I recently lost my dad and my mom lost her husband. I’ve ordered your book to give to her.

  • Sweta Poddar says:

    I lost my husband one morning in march this year.It was a regular work day and he was getting ready when he collapsed because of sudden cardiac arrest. I was packing lunch and helping my daughter get ready for school. He was 40 and we have two young daughters.
    My sister-in-law gifted your blog to me. Its helped put words to all the things I’m feeling.

    I especially like this blog because I recognize fear. Even in my dreams I’m fearful. I’m afraid to speak my mind thinking I’ll attract more bad karma. Somehow reading your blog makes me think I’ll survive no thrive though. Thankyou so much for this blog. It heals me a little everyday.

    • jan sykes says:

      I lost my partner of 20 years on 5.6.16. The fear and anxiety I have felt since is overwhelming. It makes me feel sick and dizxy. I fear for my loved one. I pray they are safe and I pray there is a way I will be with them again in the future. They were I’ll for many years but she and I got on with life and just accepted the illnesses as being normal. We went to bed on 4.6 and she said that if she died, that she loved me. I got up early the next day as we gave my elderly mum live with us. I didn’t even look back. Some hours later, I went to wake her for a hospital appointment and found her dead. She was 40. I am distraught and was in the early weeks, verging on insane with grief. Now I am left with this dreadful anxiety and fear. I am told it’s maladaptive coping, but reading these previous replies, makes me realise its not uncommon. Thankyou for reading.

  • Deb says:

    Thank you for writing this. I personally have endured much loss in the past five years / not just both parents passing away but loss in other realms, as in a 14 year relationship that broke up our family unit. Loss and grieving comes in so many ways but loss of my mom recently – January 2018 has been a real kicker. This article truly has hit home for me as it’s only been a bit over two months and I’m still waiting for her to call me. Regardless, thank you.

  • Deidre Lockyer says:

    This is my story right now. I have just realised what this feeling I s inside me, this pain, this constant needles and pins in my hands that circulates through my body and finally hits my heart. I lost my loved one three days before Christmas, unexpectedly. My mother has Alzheimer’s, I am her carer but am disabled…all in all my life has been turned inside out over the past few months and I am not coping. I never took my fear seriously in and of itself with grief because I have ocd and my whole life is trying to downplay the fear I feel. This is so different, now I must learn to allow the fear. But it brings me peace to read this. I have not fully recognised myself in my readings on grief until now. Thank you.

    • Andrea says:

      I lost my mother 14 months ago. She was 87. I have suffered with anxiety and dry mouth and sometimes feel a bit panicky. I have had blood tests and they’ve all come back normal. Has anyone else felt like this?

      • Sarah Hershey says:

        Andrea, I lost my mother in April. She was 58 and her name was also Andrea. I can definitely relate to the fear and anxiety that you feel. I get nauseous some mornings, and find new situations very difficult. I stress out about things I never used to stress out about. I went to the ER after spontaneously passing out (never happened before, I’m 26) and the blood tests also came back normal. From what I understand and have experienced, what you are going through is normal. Thanks for sharing though, it’s a comfort to me too.

  • Dee says:

    My Aunt was my everything, I was her caregiver, it was always she and I. Now I feel so lost without her and I also feel fear that I am alone. I don’t have many friend and I’am not really close to my family. The pain of her lost is unbelievable but reading you blog has help me, so thank you so much.

  • Friend says:

    Dear Christina,
    Thanks so much for your insights. It is helpful. To other poster’s, I am so sorry to hear of your losses.
    I hesitate to post, because your losses have all involved loves family members, and my loss has been my spoodle, Spooey. I know it probably doesn’t compare. But pain is pain, and Spooey was the rock that my life revolves around. This has brought up a previous loss, where my two year old daughter died, although that was 20 years ago. There are commonalities in the love and loss I feel for my daughter and Spooey. Both loves were innocent, unconditional, and infinitely greater because of the unbridled affection that a two year old, and a spoodle give and receive. Both are largely non-verbal, which in some ways makes their love more innocent, real and trustworthy as there is no miscommunication or agendas.
    It has been four days since my other daughter and I had to put Spooey down. He got sick suddenly, with no chance of recovery (inoperable tumour), and we chose not to prolong his suffering. Thankfully, he died peacefully, at home, with voices and hands that he knew and loved surrounding and loving him as he drifted away.
    This blog has been the first I have come across that addresses the issue of fear. Although it’s not fear that I feel precisely – it’s dread. Dread of facing each day, dreading the knock on the door, dread of being alone, but dread of being around people. The necessity of conveying a functional face to the world, and to make sure my daughter feels supported is something I can and will do, but privately I feel a bit drained because of this.
    I cannot eat, and my legs feel like rubber. My boyfriend is kind and wants to be on hand, giving constant hugs and holding my hand. I am grateful but feel very “observed”, and pressured to get up, or make conversation. All I want to do is stay on the couch and watch netflix. I think of it as “grief-bathing” – sort of like sunbathing as one is supine, quiescent, passively absorbing oppressive radioactive rays. I find myself staring into space and zoning out when people are talking. I have always been an avid consumer of podcasts and yet everything seems completely uninteresting. My thoughts are alternatively disjointed and chaotic, or nonexistent. Sometimes I close my eyes and just pretend I am a tree. I don’t drink or take drugs but I have felt mildly stoned and even got lost on the way to his place yesterday, even though it is only up the road.
    The tendency to sanctify a loved one when they die is very strong, and yet my baby and my spoodle were perfect to me. I want to remember them as they were honestly, and yet I also don’t want to remember them because memories are too painful. Our lives are contextualised through our relationships with others , and this gives us meaning and identity.
    My daughter drowned, and I can never forgive myself for that negligence. My grief was mixed in with shame and guilt and I never really faced it. While this has brought up the past, I am grieving for Spooey for his own sake though. Whatever else happened, I knew I always could depend on Spooey. Friendships and relationships end, maybe I don’t finish my Masters. But that didn’t matter because Spooey would always be there, reminding me that nothing was so bad a ball could not be thrown and fetched.
    I don’t think I will ever get another dog.
    I think there are three essential questions when someone dies:
    1. Did I let them down/was their life improved by having me in it,
    2. Did they have a good life, and
    3. Do they have a good death.
    With Spooey, I know for sure we did the right thing by him, and his life was better for having us in it. He grew in confidence within a year of being with us, and had lots is access to extended family who lavished him with love, treats (not too much) and attention. His death was so peaceful. And his life was good. I am grateful for those things.
    I apologise for my rather long-winded post, I had only intended to jump on quickly, and yet all manner of thoughts have come tumbling out.
    Can you tell me how long it will take for the dread to dissipate?
    Love to you all. Stay strong and take comfort from those around you x

    • Friend says:

      *sorry, when I say “both loves were infinitely greater”, I meant that they were infinitely greater to the love I have had for others in my life.

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