Grief Is A Process; Progress Takes Time
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For those who have been diagnosed with chronic illness, it may be the worst thing that has ever happened to you.  It certainly was for me.  But then my dad died, and that became the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

I should have learned from being chronically ill, grief takes time, especially when it comes to something that permanently changes your life.

Grief is different for everyone and for every event that causes grief.  The grief I felt over becoming chronically ill is different than the grief that I felt when my dad died, and is different than the grief that I felt when my relationship of three and a half years ended.

Similar to all of these situations, though, is that we grieve the things that could have been, and we try to come to terms with the fact that life will probably never be the same as it was pre-illness, pre-death, and pre-breakup.

Grief takes time.  Significant things happen in life, and they have a huge impact, so we shouldn’t expect to “get over” them in a short time (or ever).

But as I’ve learned over the past eight years of dealing with illness, the last year and a half of dealing with my dad’s death, and the last month of dealing with the breakup, grief ebbs and flows, but it never really goes away.

And people that have not experienced this just don’t understand.  Sometimes, even those who have experienced similar things, don’t even understand.  Maybe if you’ve had one major grief experience, you view it as isolated incident, that it doesn’t define your life.  Maybe not.

Unfortunately, I feel like our culture breeds a culture of silence when it comes to grief.  I know that I have avoided talking about my grief around others because I worry that it would make them sad, and I don’t want to burden other people with my problems.  On the other hand, I feel like people avoid talking about grief with those who are grieving because they don’t know how to, or they worry that the person will fall apart.

But I truly wish that I could talk about it with people, because when I have talked about it, I feel free.  I feel more normal, more like me.  I think it would help other people understand me better.  And people have to understand that when I need alone time, it’s not because I’m depressed or socially isolated, but sometimes I do need that alone time to process.  That can definitely be a lonely pursuit though, especially when you feel like the people around you just want you to forget what happened and move on.

I had 22 years of being healthy.  I had 29 years with my dad.  So I would expect that it would take at least that much time to fully process what the years without health or without my dad will look like.

It’s hard enough to deal with one of these types of grief, let alone all of them.  If you’re grieving, whether it’s your health or something else, find some way to channel that grief.  I think it’s really hard to deal with grief on your own, as it can consume you.  But that doesn’t mean you should just push your grief aside and pretend it doesn’t exist.

So whether you’re grieving one loss or many, give yourself time.  Don’t let it consume your life, but don’t rush it because other people think you should.

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5 comments on “Grief Is A Process; Progress Takes Time

  1. Rob says:

    This article hits home. While I don’t have a chronic illness, I have lost my father. He passed away unexpectedly while he and my mother were on vacation just two weeks after September 11, 2001. That experience was overwhelming and something I will never completely overcome. With such an experience, I realize how important it is to respect the needs of others when they must deal with grief.

    Grief does take time. And then more time. In my case, I had several occasions in which I thought I’d put my grief behind me, but I hadn’t. Something would occur that would suddenly renew the sense of loss and then the grief began over again. All I could do was negotiate my feelings as best I could and let more time pass.

    Time does help, but I’m not sure we’re really quite the same after being touched by tragedy. I know I feel as though I lost a great deal of myself during my experience. Innocence, youth, freedom from worry; all seemed to have departed. I suppose I didn’t lose all touch with those feelings, but I know they’ve faded.

    I’d like to think I am still much the same as I was before tragedy, because I liked that person. I try to let that person show each day, in some fashion and I hope others can see him. If that’s so, then perhaps that’s a way in which grief has helped me heal.

  2. ygj says:

    This really resonates with me. I lost my mom last Fall and 2 months later was diagnosed with RA. While I am responding to the medication and in fact my mom’s death was not unexpected, there are still days when I am overwhelmed by all of it. I withdraw and also ‘mourn’ in silence. I don’t have the energy to talk about it. I get irritated when people ask about how I am coping with RA and totally ignore the fact that my mom passed. I have noticed that people are more willing to bring up the health situation versus the death. Then I want to remind them that I’m also dealing with her passing. I guess there are no answers, but it’s helpful to hear that others struggle with this combination of loss.

  3. Kelly Dabel moderator says:

    “ygi” Thank you so much for sharing. So sorry to hear about your mom. Grief is indeed a process. The death of a loved one and a new diagnosis of RA are a big deal. We’re here for you and I’m so glad that this article resonated with you and perhaps reminded you that you are not alone in this. In addition to speaking with your doctor, here is another article on grief that may be helpful to you:https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/grieving-part-living-chronic-disease-like-ra/. Thank you for being part of our community. Gentle hugs, Kelly Dabel – RHeumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  4. weeladylou says:

    OK, so that just completely freaked me out! If some of the numerical facts were altered and my memory wasn’t quite up to scratch I could have convinced myself that I’d written that piece myself Leslie!! There were bells ringing all over the place and though sad to hear of someone else goin through the same shit, kinda morbidly comforting too…
    I was diagnosed about 5 years ago but think I’ve been in denial for the first few, then I lost my dad to Parkinson’s in December 2013 & my whole world fell apart. People say you don’t die from Parkinson’s but that’s not true. It’s an evil disease which snuck up and took my wonderful wee dad, dragged him under & took part of me with it. I spent the majority of the following year in a bubble. It’s been over 2 years now (terrifyingly enough) and I stayed in that bubble but somewhere in amongst everything else the reality of my own illness started creeping in and a 2nd lot of ‘mourning’ landed on my weary shoulders with the realisation that life as I knew it was forever altered. Fast forward a few more months and add on the 3rd dose of ‘mourning’ as I now have to face the fact that I am no longer able to continue doing the job I’ve been doing for the last 20 years (I was a TV camera operator)! 20 years is a long time to be doing the same thing, so the thought that that is now no longer an option is a total shock to the system! What the f… do I do now? Add to that the fact that my long term relationship is going nowhere and the chances of me being able to become a mum anytime soon – if at all are pretty remote and the result is me feeling like I’m buried in a whole heap of ‘life’s quicksand’ and not sure how to get a good grip on anything – not the best, strrrrrresss! Basically, it means I can completely understand how you’re feeling! I’m still searching for my ‘coping mechanism’, but a recent wee ray of hope for me was stumbling across this site (which happened when I was up all night a couple of weeks ago struggling to breathe) during my latest chest infection & was lookin for reassurance online that I wasn’t goin to keel over and die! It’s an amazing feeling to finally realise you’re not alone. Maybe knowing that can help give me enough of a boost to help drag me out of the ‘quicksand’ I’m in and start seeing the positive things in life again…fingers crossed! Thanks for sharing Leslie and good luck on your journey 🙂

  5. Jillian S moderator says:

    weeladylou,
    Thank for opening up to our community and giving some real insight into life with RA. We are so sorry about your fathers passing and how it has affected your life. We are so happy that you found our community and truly believe that simply knowing you are not alone can help!!
    The RA community is always here to listen and support you.
    I am sure that many of our community members can relate to your ‘quicksand’ analogy. Life with chronic illness is hard enough as it is. Losing a parent and giving up a 20 year career on top of that can surely drive anyone into a ‘bubble’.
    I thought you might enjoy this article on the little things that keep us thankful:
    https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/for-this-thankful/
    Best,
    Jillian (Rhuematoidarthritis.net)

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