Friday, November 28, 2014

The Five Stages of Grief

To go along with yesterday's post, I'm going to post an article I wrote many years ago for a support group that I belong to on MDJunction, where they have online support groups for just about every medical condition under the sun. I joined this group when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, though it's been a wonderful support and resource for me through many other illnesses! This article has been posted in several different groups, and I thought it might be helpful to have it here as well.
07 April 2010
You've not been feeling well for quite some time now.  At first, you tried to ignore it, then finally realized that you couldn't put it off any more.  You make an appointment with your doctor, who schedules a series of strange and intimidating tests: blood work, CAT scans, MRIs and stuff you probably never even heard of.  After waiting for what seems forever to get your test results back, your doctor calls you into the office.  Then you get the news: you have a chronic illness, something that cannot be cured and that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.  You sit there, perhaps still in the exam room, maybe in your car in the parking lot, and you wonder, what now?

Now is the time when the five stages of grief will step in and rule your life for a matter of time.  It could be days, weeks, months, or even years that you will spend going through the process of grieving, but every person who is diagnosed with a chronic illness will go through this process, the same as you would if you had lost a loved one.  You HAVE lost a loved one: the old YOU.  You must grieve for the person that you were, so that you can move on and accept the person that you are.

The first stage of grief is denial.  Each and every one of us goes through this process.  We may say to ourselves, "Oh, it can't be!  That can't be right!"  We may even go to another doctor, to try and find another answer, perhaps one with a "cure".  Most of us will go home and do some research, whether on the computer or at the local library or book store.  We may even KEEP that appointment with the other doctor, just to see if maybe this one will come up with something we like better.  When we go home, we may tell our loved ones and friends that the tests were inconclusive, that the "quack" we went to see doesn't know what's wrong with us and that we're going to keep trying to find an answer. 

Once you've made your way through the denial phase, the next step in your grieving process is anger.  You may become increasingly angry at the world, your job and coworkers, your family, and even yourself.  You will probably want to yell and scream, and possibly even throw things.  You will declare to yourself and to anyone who will listen about how life isn't fair and you got the short end of the stick.  At this stage, it is important to remember that your anger is an integral part of your grieving process, and that it is completely normal.  However, if your anger turns to violence toward you or others, it's time to seek professional help.

The third stage of grief is called bargaining.  If you are a person of faith (no matter what that faith is), you will probably find yourself trying to bargain with your deity; "Oh please, if you'll take this away, I will _________" (fill in the blank).  This, too, is a normal phase of grieving that everyone must go through before they can become completely comfortable.

Depression is the fourth stage of the process of grieving for your lost self.  This stage is easy to get into and difficult to get out of.  But again, this phase is completely normal, however, if your depression is so serious that you are having feelings and/or thoughts of hurting yourself (or worse), please seek professional help!!  You may become depressed because you can no longer do some of the things you used to do, or be the person you used to be.  You may feel as if you are "broken" or that there is something wrong with you.  You may isolate yourself from your friends (or they may do it for you--but if they do, they weren't true friends), slow or completely stop your social activities, and spend hours or days at a time in bed crying.  You are grieving over the loss of your self.

The final stage of grieving is acceptance.  This is where you finally get to the point where you say to yourself, this is where I'm at, and I can accept it.  You have come to terms with your illness, learned about it, and learned how you yourself can cope with your condition and make your life a bit more livable with that condition.  You may slowly pick up your social activities and come out of your shell more and more.  A big step toward managing your condition, no matter what it is, is the acceptance of that condition.  Once you are no longer fighting the inevitable, you will be better able to listen to your body as it tells you what it needs.

You may not necessarily go through these five stages in the order listed, and there's no time limit for each one.  You will remain in a stage for as long as YOU need to.  There's no right or wrong answer here.  You may even go back to a stage you have already been through, because there is something there that is still unresolved in your mind.  However, there is one thing to remember through all of this: the stages of grief are necessary to your physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being, not only when you grieve the loss of a loved one, but when you grieve the loss of yourself as well.  Do not be ashamed, but rather embrace your grieving process; once you do, you will find that you manage a lot better!**The five stages of grief information was taken from: Recover From Grief.

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