Grief and panic attacks


I’m new on here but been lurking for a while!

I wondered if anyone had any experience of coping with claustrophobia type panicky feelings after losing loved ones?

My dad passed away suddenly at the end of September just two weeks after his cancer diagnosis. Then 18 days later, my mum passed away too, after a ten year long battle with young-onset dementia. We were all very close and it has hit me hard.

Earlier in the summer my husband was involved in a serious traffic accident that left him with 9 broken vertebrae and multiple broken ribs. I have also been coming to terms with the potential hereditary nature of mum’s dementia. So it’s fair to say 2016 was pretty rubbish!

So I have had a lot on my plate and it continues; with two complex estates to administer and the family home to clear & sell. I also have a demanding job and 2 pre-teens who miss their grandparents terribly.

I know I’m going through a tough time in my life. And so I don’t expect to feel great. But what’s bothering me is that I have started to have claustrophobia / panicky episodes. They often come at night when I am trying to sleep, or if I get very emotional. Its like a rising panic i can feel moving up from my stomach and I am not always able to stop it developing into a full blown panic attack. Sometimes I can control it using distraction or breathing. But these episodes are becoming more frequent.

I’m sure its a stage in the grieving process but has anyone else experienced this and does anyone have any suggestions for helping me cope with them?


I have suffered from panic attacks since my early twenties - so mine are not directly grief related - but they are a normal stress reaction to grief, and grief can certainly make them worse.

I would strongly suggested getting some counselling specifically for anxiety so you can learn some management techniques - mindfulness is good - but the important thing is to remember that your feelings are normal and understandable. You have been though an awful time so be kind to yourself.

Not that I would recommend it long term but some medication from your GP might help. I started to get very anxious not long after Helen, my wife, died and events up to her death had felt traumatic, then I realised it was because I was waiting for the next bad thing to happen and everything was out of my control. Once I realised I was still in control of much of my life, it helped. With both your parents going so close to each other you may be feeling something of the same. Helen had had had panic attacks and tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), whether this is very similar to mindfulness I don’t know. But Louella is right that this is “normal”, and nothing to fear in itself. Take good care of yourself and perhaps contact Cruse or see whether Priscella has any further advice.

Thank you both very much for your replies. Its so reassuring to know that I’m not the only one experiencing this reaction to grief.
I sometimes wonder if I am suppressing some of the emotion by subconsciously keeping busy and distracted, and that might be why its worse at night - when i stop rushing around and try to sleep. And I do feel like i have no control, almost like I am simply helpless to prevent bad things happening to those I love. That’s a bit of a realisation, even as Im typing it…yes it’s definitely a feeling of helplessness.
I think I am going to give mindfulness / meditation a go and try to get some CBT therapy too.
Once again, huge thanks I am very grateful :slight_smile:

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