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.