We often take our health for granted. When that health is taken away it can be an extremely painful experience.
Whether it’s a traumatic event like a car wreck or heart attack, or a slow chronic disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, the process of accepting new limitations can be extremely difficult.
After a significant health loss, you may have complicated and surprising emotions such as shock, anger, guilt or never-ending sadness. While these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming, they are normal reactions to a health loss. Accepting them as part of the grieving process and allowing yourself to feel those emotions is necessary for healing. There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of your old life style, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. Grief is a series of stages that, if expressed and experienced, has a potential for healing and eventually strengthen your life.
Five Stages of Grief
1. Denial and Isolation – refusing to believe what has happened, feeling shocked.
2. Anger – at the one who inflicted the hurt (such as an innocent victim of a car wreck), at the world or God (such as a diabetes patient) for letting it happen. The person may even be angry with himself for putting their own health in danger (such as a smoker with lung cancer)
3. Bargaining – asking the universe or a supreme being to let the person live or to change the circumstances.
4. Depression – feeling numb, sad and hopeless.
5. Acceptance – facing the reality of the health loss and focusing on rebuilding their new life.
Recovering From a Health Loss
The strong and often conflicting emotions that accompany grief can be physically stressful on the body and delay or hinder the healing or rehabilitation process. But there are steps you can take to help.
- Express your feelings – keep a journal. Document the changes in your life, express your anger and fear in written words.
- Face your fear– Grief can be suppressed for a while, but in order to rebuild your new life you have to acknowledge the pain and loss. Avoiding feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and further health problems.
- Don’t let anyone, (including yourself) tell you how to feel –Your health loss is your own and no one can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel what you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, ashamed, cry or yell. It’s also okay to laugh, find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
- Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” – Anniversaries, holidays and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for emotional struggles and know that it’s completely normal.
If you are experiencing a permanent change in health, contact iTherapy to discuss your concerns with one of our counselors.