Is it normal to have panic attacks/anticipatory grief about family members dying?

Since I was in 2nd/3rd grade I've had panic attacks where I basically imagine/go through the physical experience of grief I'll feel when my mom dies. Usually at night, when I can't sleep. They were frequent back then but stopped when I started having mental health problems at 16. Now they're starting to happen again

When I have them they'll last for hours, always at night when I can't sleep, and it feels like a knot in my throat that turns into this searing pain in my heart, and then waves of pain through my entire body like I'm physically being tortured. I feel a very strong need to vomit. If I was standing I wouldn't be able to stay up.

I start to feel unreal in my own body but not really like dissociation. The idea of a world without a creator feels cruel & is too much for my body to handle, that death is permanent. It feels like parts are being ripped out of me. If everyone dies and we're all just an accident of space and optimal conditions for life then why live? Why anything?

(Yes I felt all this as an 8 year old lol. I thought it was normal because one time I saw a Facebook post that was like "do you ever lie in bed and randomly think a whole story about your parents dying and end up crying". And people joke about having identity crises ALL THE TIME so isn't that what this is?)

Please don't push religion as the answer to this question--I'm agnostic, I appreciate you, but have CPTSD from other things in childhood and literally just wanna know if this is a normal experience for most people or not

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  • Never used this website before but I'm so glad I found it, thank you for your answers... they really helped.

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  • I used to have similar feelings. I'm no expert of course, but I think you have a fear of abandonment. Have you tried doing some deep breathing exercises? Also, I think you should watch kitten videos when you are stressed out.

    I'm sorry that you have had some bad experiences around religion, because prayer can help. Have you ever done yoga? Some gentle yoga an herbal tea before bed can be very helpful. I also find that keeping a gratitude journal is helpful.

    Have you ever heard of something called a self soothing kit?

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  • Take xanax or Klonopin and beta blockers and antidepressants.

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  • put something inside and out your bum when these thoughts start to take over.. keep doing it for a few minutes or until you forget about the family.

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  • It doesn't sound to me as if you'd had appropriate therapy for your CPTSD so I suggest you look into that.

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  • Great grandma gets mad when I call her and ask her if she is dead or sick. I wish she would give me a key so I could come in her house whenever I want to make sure she isn't dead.

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    • That would make me angry too! And why should you be able to go into anyone else's house whenever you want just because she's old?

      I'm old with heart and lung conditions and live alone and the Red Cross in Australia (don't know about elsewhere) has a free service called Telecross where they call me every morning around a set time and if I don't answer after 3 calls they call my daughter.

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  • I chose "No not that bad" but don't get me wrong I have had these feelings. The only thing I can say is make meaningful memories with the people that you love while you still can. You can look back after the death of a loved one and know that you had their back and they had yours.
    My cousin killed himself a couple weeks ago. He was 26, it was out of the blue. I will miss him forever as we grew up together and he had no real parents. The only thing keeping me from going absolutely nuts is remembering all the good times and the bad. Even after he moved across the country we stayed in contact and the last text he sent to me was "I love you man." I have locked that text in my phone and I wear his dog tags everyday.
    Sorry this is getting pretty long. We will all leave this Earth one day. Wonderful memories can last a lifetime.

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