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  • Writer's pictureBecca Terkelsen


Updated: Dec 14, 2018

I know, that's a phrase we often use sarcastically, or ironically, when we're emoting about our "first world problems." But for me, right now, it's feeling pretty real.

This holiday season, I am struggling with some legitimate anxiety. In my 40+ years I know I have experienced some sense of anxiety, but I know now it was different. I think back to when I was a young mom trying to figure out how to afford diapers and groceries. Then, when I was a single mom of two and was struggling to pay our rent. And the day the IRS seized my bank accounts ON payday. Come to think of it, that may be a whole post in itself. But looking back, I can honestly say I have not had anxiety like I do now. Why? This holiday season coincides with the one year anniversary of my brother’s death.

Matt and Mila
Matt and Mila at Christmastime

Matt passed on December 14, 2017. He suffered a very sudden, fatal heart attack while driving home. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I remain so passionate about health. This was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with – not only because of my own loss, but because it was a total loss for every single person I love and hold dear. My sister-in-law lost her soul mate. My sister lost her brother. My children lost their godfather and uncle. My parents will mourn the loss of their middle child forever. My niece knows the meaning of “dead” at (now) 3 years old. To say this loss was devastating is putting it mildly.

Death is an unfortunate side effect of life, and if it hasn't already, it will affect every single one of us in one way or another. I hope the way in which you experience death will mostly be after long lives have been lived, not cut tragically short. My brother was only 39 years old. Way too young for the health issues he suffered from, which we only learned of after his passing.

When you lose a part of your immediate family, the hardest part is that you are surrounded by people going through their own grief process. The people you would normally turn to for comfort and help in such trying times are having just as much trouble holding it together as you are.

This year, I am finding that each time a “Christmas” image flashes, I get this butterfly sensation in my soul that is in no way excitement. I do not feel it ALL the time, but I always know it is there. Simmering… just lying dormant in the shadows of consciousness waiting for the trigger. Sounds horribly ominous, I know, but it’s also the truth of anxiety; something I had not truly understood until now.

I found these excepts about grief from The Loss Foundation both validating and comforting:

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. And somewhere down the line, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart.

I know that many people struggle with anxiety their entire life, and I am so grateful that I am not one of those people. I do feel this is situational, to a point, and it will hopefully pass. I also know I cannot ignore these very real feelings, so one step I am taking is to write about them. I am also talking to those close to me, but not directly effected by Matt’s passing, exercising and making sure I eat right, reading about grief, and remembering my brother in other ways and creating NEW Christmas/holiday memories and traditions.

Sorry for the long post, but this is a BIG, sensitive subject for me. I hope that I have some success dealing with my anxiety around this season and will keep you posted. I’d love to hear if you have suffered through something similar, not necessarily related to a loss, but maybe to your own anxiety struggles and how you coped or what worked for you.

Please remember that for each of us who have a struggle, we each have a different way of coping and expressing it. Not only here, but out in the whole big, scary world, especially this time of year. Be generous of grace and spirit as we all interact; you never know what someone is going through.

#grief #thestruggleisreal #holidaymemories #bekind #begenerous

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