Separation Anxiety And Grief

We think that separation anxiety only happens when it’s the first day of our child’s school or maybe his first field trip. It is hard for us, parents, to accept the distance, and we worry too much and sometimes, get too emotional. However, life calls us to be away from each other in some instances, and we need to acknowledge and accept that.


Besides occasions that demand us to be apart from the people we love, there is another thing that could separate us, and it is permanent: death. It is inevitable, and no matter what we do, there will come a time that we will be apart from the people we love. It is unimaginable that’s why we don’t entertain these thoughts. It’s like “whatever will be, will be.” However, avoiding it could leave us off guard when it happens. What will happen if someone from our family or someone we love dies? How do we cope?

What Is Separation Anxiety?

“An anxious or angry child is in flight-or-fight mode with their body primed to handle a perceived threat.” –Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC

Separation anxiety disorder or SEPAD is the disproportionate feeling of sadness and worry when we are separated from home or from someone whom we have an emotional attachment with, like our family. It is typical for children from toddler to about eight.

SEPAD is why children cry when they go to school for the first time. Sometimes, they tend to put out uncontrollable tantrums because they are afraid to be left with people who are not familiar, but they will get used to it and start to enjoy school in time. 


Separation anxiety can also happen in adults, but it could be much more complicated as it could be a sign of a mental health issue. It could happen when someone we love dies, and it is a dreadful thing to lose someone whom we have lived with and have emotionally attached ourselves to.

What Is Grief And What Is Complicated Grief?

Grief is a feeling of extreme sorrow over the loss of someone dear to us. It is often accompanied with disbelief and unacceptance. However, there are stages of grief, and once a person has gone through all these stages, he will find the will to start afresh. “When it’s too hard to cope with all of this alone, you might find it helpful to have someone who understands trauma and loss in your corner.” A reminder from Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD.

Complicated grief, on the other hand, lasts longer than usual.It makes a person blame himself and be resentful. He tends to isolate himself and shut the world out altogether. People with complicated grief fail to understand the loss and cannot let go. They tend to stick with what used to be, and they couldn’t see any other way to live.


A person who has separation anxiety disorder could experience complicated grief when dealing with a loss. It is like having his biggest fear happen, and it could incapacitate and make him weak emotionally and physically. These two could start major depression and cause other medical health problems as the person could neglect help. Remember,  “Sometimes people seem to deny, to be in a daze, but these are all coping mechanisms.” Curt Drennen, PsyD, RN said.

It is crucial at this point that a person has a support system that will allow him to accept the reality that death is a part of life and there is no other way but to move on. It is also advisable that people with SEPAD and complicated grief be seen by a professional to address the issue before it could worsen and develop to other health issues such as depression.

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