The Healing Cycles of Grief
So what is grief? Isn’t it just lots of crying?
That is such a normal question. Grief is the process of letting go of someone or something that was deeply important to you. Grief is very different for each person, and comes in waves of ever-changing emotions. If you don’t know this, you may think you are going crazy. Grief can be triggered from expected and unexpected places.
I’m grieving right now
A recent trip to my pulmonologist confirmed that my lungs have gotten worse. I suspected as much because I’ve been even more tired and am finding it harder to go places, even though I’m using supplemental oxygen 24/7. Each time my lungs worsen I go through cycles of grief and adjustments.
I shared recently that Grief Can be a Friend on This PF Journey. It helps when I understand the different emotions and aspects of grief, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you. When going through hardships and devastating losses it is very normal to ask questions such as “Why?” “Why me?” “God, why won’t you…?” plus a lot more. Asking these questions, feeling the emotions, and wishing for a different reality is a normal part of the grief process.
Grief often comes in stages, but not always, or in this order:
Shock and Denial…What? This can’t be happening; This isn’t happening. What do you mean I have a terminal illness? What do you mean there’s nothing you can do? I was confused, discombobulated, grieving and on overload for at least six months when I was given this news 2½ years ago.
Pain and Guilt…Feeling the pain of the loss, and often blaming yourself for not preventing it (even if you had no ability to do so). The pain you feel is emotional, physical and relational.
Bargaining…with God, and with whoever is giving you the bad news (“Wait, I promise I’ll go to church every Sunday, I’ll be a better wife/husband/employee; I’ll eat healthier; Maybe you could do…; Maybe I could do…”)
Anger…at the reality of what has happened, directed at God, others, yourself and the unfairness of getting such a horrible disease. Anger is a normal response to hearing horrible news.
Depression…. once reality has set in, there will be incredible sadness regarding the reality of your diagnosis, the current loss of your health and functioning, and loss of the future you imagined, and eventually your life.
Acceptance and Adjustment…as you accept the reality fully, the pain lessens and you are able to make realistic adjustments and plans to live the life you have to the fullest.
This is quite a list to absorb all at one time. It is important to know the basic stages of grief, and to realize everyone has their own way of grieving
~ Some will be very demonstrative with emotions, others not
~ Some want to grieve alone, others want support
~ Some work out their grief in doing projects
~ Some journal, others do not
~ Some focus on logistics, taking care of business right away, and their emotions hit later
~ For some, grief may be less visible because of an inability to access and/or express emotions.
So, I hope you see that grief and its way of being expressed is unique. Don’t judge your own or anyone else’s way of grieving
Regarding yourself…make sure you allow yourself to grieve in your own way as you live with pulmonary fibrosis. Not facing it will cause you to be stuck, which can lead to anxiety, depression, bitterness, and enjoying the time you have. There are many great resources for you and your loved ones.
Here are some good resources:
The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard by Kara Tippetts – Written by a patient who lost her battle with terminal cancer. Kara’s story was one of seeing God in the hard and in the good. It was one of finding grace in the everyday.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – Written from the personal point of view of a surgeon who found out he had metastatic lung cancer. It’s a beautifully written, insightful, page-turning book on how we connect as humans and why life – no matter how truncated – is worth living.
Grieving the Losses of Life by Norm Wright – I love this book because he explains that grief comes in many difficult situations, not only death.
Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar – Very real sharing of a father who lost his daughter, with hope for picking up the pieces again.
I’m working on a book proposal right now to help those dealing with a terminal illness and their families. I want to share how faith and caring for myself with kindness and compassion eases the pain, devastation and grief when facing a terminal illness.
My guess is most of us don’t know how to stay connected to ourselves through self-care, forgiving our past mistakes and failures, while treating ourselves with the kindness and compassion we would give another person who is struggling.
What do you think?
~ Where are you in the grief process?
~ Are you stuck in the grief process? If so what do you need?
~ What is helping you through this grief process?
~ As I work on my book proposal, what would you like me to include that would be truly helpful?
I’d love you to share any comments, questions, or helpful ideas for processing grief with our PF community.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.