Stages Of Grief - Saying Goodbye To Who I Used To Be

The concept of "stages of grief" goes back to the late 60's and the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who wrote about them in her book On Death And Dying.

Stages of RA Grief

She stated that terminally ill patients go through 5 stages of grief when faced with their imminent death—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Those stages were applied to death of a loved one in her next book On Grief And Grieving.

Lately I've begun to wonder if Elisabeth had been stricken with RA if she would have written a third book titled On Grieving And RA.

Why? In the 4 months since being diagnosed, and the months prior to diagnosis that I unknowingly and haphazardly dealt with the unidentified foe, I've found that the stages of grief seem applicable to this new chapter of life I loosely call Living With This RA Crap. And I have struggled with the reality that the youthful energetic person I used to be is gone. Enter the stages of grief.

Mourning pre-RA identity

What the five stages of grief are and how they work are summarized in an article I found about Elisabeth's books. As I read it I realized that, although they were referring to dealing with the death of someone close to us, it could also be applied to the death of who I used to be prior to the onslaught of this dreaded disease. As I read it I mentally overlaid it over what my life has become living with RA. It says:

  • Our grief is as individual as our lives. Each person is unique in how he or she copes with feelings of grief because each person has unique DNA and a unique personal history (including their relationship with the deceased).
  • Not everyone will go through all of the 5 stages of grief.
  • Not everyone will go through them in a prescribed order. In other words, the five stages of grief do not have a predictable, uniform and linear pattern.
  • You can switch back and forth between each of the five stages of grief.
  • The 5 stages of grief are simply tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.

I think I was nodding my head throughout the whole article, especially when it said that we could look at the 5 stages of grief like “a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows." It goes on to say, "Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer."

Wow, that sure describes these last half a dozen or so months! It then unknowingly offered a little hope when it said, "The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss." Hmmm. I sure hope so.

Finding gratitude with RA

I know I still have a lot to be thankful for. As my daddy would often tell us, I don't have to look very far to see someone else who is worse off than I am.

Yet the grief is real and it can't and won't be ignored. What used to be a simple walk to the post office or a quick climb up a flight of stairs are now in the past.

The five stages are now very real. I have tried to deny the effects of RA, I've been angry at my new limitations, I've made lists of things I thought I could do to get it to go away, and depression has tried on several occasions to envelope me.

Currently I'm in the acceptance stage but my strong-willed stubborn side is most certainly going to step to the front again and I'll revisit one of the other stages from time to time. Deep sigh. But for now I think I'll just go enjoy some sunshine and soak up some more beneficial vitamin D.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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