GOING THROUGH THE 5 STAGES OF GRIEF AFTER MY DIAGNOSES
I was reading this book my last boss (holistic massage therapist) gave me, called “Anatomy of the Spirit.” I was about a quarter of the way through when it started talking a bit about grief and all of a sudden I had this powerful “light bulb” moment.
The past few months since I was diagnosed with EDS and fibromyalgia with arthritis, on top of my many other diagnoses, I had been struggling with some depression and overall unhappiness with where I was at in life. I had always believed in a “light at the end of the tunnel” and thought my pain would dissipate eventually, but during that doctor appointment, I knew with a terrible reality that I would not heal from this pain. In fact, it would get worse as time went on. Just like I experienced before where I was bed-bound. It was not going to get better.
As I was thinking this, I thought of the pattern I had had with all of my recent emotions. And boom! It hit me. I was going through the stages of grief – because of my diagnosis! I was mourning the loss of my happily-ever-after future. And finally, I could hold onto that thought and knew that even if my pain didn’t get better, I could.
I reflected on the five stages – after looking them up to be sure, of course.
Stage #1: Denial. For the first month after I had so many people come to me and express their regrets and how sorry they were that, being so young, I had to deal with this. But of course I brushed it off and would say something witty or uplifting. I thought it was because I was strong. I thought it was because I could handle anything. But it was actually because I was in complete and utter denial. I didn’t research about my condition, I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t even try to figure out the symptoms I had. I just ignored it and tucked it tightly away into the darkest places in my mind. It came and then it was forgotten. Buried with the fervor that belied how life-altering I knew it would become. And oh, how right I was.
Stage #2: Anger. Once I opened up the Pandora’s box and let myself realize everything about my three most recent diagnoses, I was angry. I was absolutely furious with God, with my family, with my friends and with myself for letting me get this way. How dare God give these problems to me. How dare he consider holding me back from my full potential. And how dare my family not appreciate all I had gone through and had yet to go through. And don’t even get me started on my friends and how they all always abandoned me in my time of need.
And then came #3: Bargaining. I realized that my friends weren’t there because I didn’t express how I needed them. I realized how my family wasn’t there because I hadn’t told them all that I struggled with. I let them live in the dark, oblivious that I was sobbing myself to sleep every night from all of the burdens I was struggling to carry. And so I confessed. I reached out to friends, I told family everything. I begged God to release me from the obligation of pain. But to no end of course. Unlike movies and TV, there is not always an answer or a way out of your turmoil.
Suddenly, #4: Depression. I sobbed and I cried. I teared up at every little thought of my future and the loss of my way of life. But mostly, I sobbed at the loss of hope. Now I had dealt with grief before. Up close and personal when my best friend killed himself after I refused to date him. I felt it so deeply despite it being six years since he died. But I knew what to expect. Good days and bad days. Good years and less-good years. So I knew sadness and depression. But I hadn’t quite dealt with it in respect to me, myself and I. I hadn’t realized how personal depression could be. Grieving for a lost life of another is very different from grieving for the lost life of You that could have been.
I am not saying that I have just reached stage #5 after only five months because I haven’t accepted it. I haven’t quite accepted what my life will hold and how many things I really will have to give up. But I am getting there. I go back and forth between sobbing for my sorry self and future and accepting that I am a better person because of it.
I wish I could give answers to everyone who is struggling with their new diagnosed outlook on life but I can’t. Because there is not one answer. After years of dealing with the loss of my best friend I know you constantly have to work on things to stay on the positive side of life. Some days will be harder than others, some days it will be so easy to find your smile that it comes with every breath, and then there will be those days where everything seems rotten and pain covers every surface you look at. But that is OK, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may not be a paradise you can find glory in for eternity once you reach it. But it will be something you can taste again and again.
The stages of grief don’t have a timeline. And that is because every single one of us have different timelines of our own. Just know that one day, you will reach that stage of acceptance. And though it may take anger and even depression to get there, that contentment will still be there, waiting for you to reach it so you can become even better than you were before. Because really, what is life if it doesn’t remind you of a rollercoaster? Even if it takes years, hold onto the ride. Just keep holding on tight. The longer you hold tight, will just make it that much sweeter when you reach the end.
Acceptance, at last.
Image credit: "Sad" by clala1220 is licensed under CC BY 2.0