Now that you know a bit about me and why I’m sharing my thoughts on chronic illness here, let’s get back to the basics of why I started this blog in the first place. In the beginning, when you and I were first diagnosed with one or any of all of the chronic issues we have, we went through the stages of grief.
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” -Psalm 34:18
Whether you did it quickly or you are still in one of the stages today, it is something we all contend with when we are given a diagnosis that affects the rest of our lives. You’ve heard that it isn’t what happens to you, but how you handle it that matters. Well, I do know from experience that it’s easier said than done but allow me to give you the benefit of my experience.
If you look at your diagnosis as a life sentence, you are going to see all the limitations and all the problems that come with it. However, if you look to any opportunities, experience, education, and what you may gain from having a chronic illness, you’ll see all the good that God has put there for you.
If you can’t see it now, don’t worry. It’ll be there when you’re ready to do so. It all goes back to the beginning and those five stages of grief following any difficult trial we endure. And here they are:
The first stage is denial. In my experience, this stage can go on for anywhere from a few hours to a few years depending upon what it is you are to accept and where you are in your life at the time.
When I was diagnosed with hayfever, I thought the doctor was off his nut. I didn’t sneeze. I had a sore throat! He never explained and I never asked so for many years I denied it was a problem. Only after being diagnosed with several chronic issues, did I realize why that doctor came to that conclusion. Hayfever isn’t just sneezing! Wanna guess what it can also be? Yup!
By the time I was diagnosed with Fibro, I had known something was not right with my energy and pain for YEARS! That diagnosis didn’t go through a period of denial at all. Other diagnoses took some form of denial of different lengths. Your mileage may vary.
The next step is anger and this is one that I tend to come back to from time to time when I’m in a dark place. Why me?! Why ALWAYS me?! So and so doesn’t have half these things to deal with. I already have tons of things…why me again?!
When I realize that being angry only uses up more energy, I can do things that snap me out of it and give me a more positive and proactive outlook. I also find that those so and so’s I thought never had to deal with XYZ had to deal with something else I never had to deal with. Either way, I come to a point of letting go of the anger to get on with what I need to do and what I can do.
The third step is bargaining. Bargaining with God that if He heals you, you’ll be better, do better. It’s where you’re trying to get your old life back. In a way, this brings false hope that you can achieve that.
While God can do anything, He doesn’t always do what we want or when we want it. I know God can heal me completely, but I don’t know when or if He will this side of heaven. Meanwhile, I have a life to live as best I can so I move on through the grief stages to that end.
The fourth step of grief is depression. That’s another one of the steps I find myself going back to at times. Why me, Lord and now what? I think we all need to sit with this for a time (may it be a few days or a few months) before we can move on from here.
Early on, it took much more time to move out of the depression phase. At this point in my life, I find myself in depression for just a few hours before I can move on again to the next step which is the BEST step. Every time there is a glitch in my health issues, a new diagnosis, a financial bump along the chronic illness road, I find myself back in the depression step, but for a shorter and shorter time.
Don’t get too upset if you find yourself here again. It’s a fallen world and stuff happens. Just don’t hesitate to work your way through it to the final step where you can see the joy, find a new purpose, and bring meaning to it all.
The final step in the stages of grief is acceptance. This is the phase where you have come to terms with what has happened, but you can focus your time and whatever energy you have on finding meaning and purpose in your life.
“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3
There are a surprising amount of things you can accomplish if you allow the Lord to direct your steps. It takes working through all these steps first in order to hear God. Once that happens, you need to keep an open mind to what the Father is leading you to do. I have been amazed at the things I’ve been able to do that have helped others and taken my mind off of what I can’t do and put it on what God can do through me–even though I have limited energy.
There are two final things I’d like to put to you. The first is that the stages of grief are just a bit different for accepting a chronic illness as opposed to something like blindness or even cancer. People understand what it must be like to deal with blindness and they have a heart for those who are going through cancer…or at least they will accept them as a real problem. When you are dealing with a chronic issue that people don’t understand, they also don’t understand why and how you’d be going through these stages of grief.
Finally, I want to point out that acceptance doesn’t have to mean you give up or that God won’t heal you. Acceptance means that you have come to terms with how things are. You can have acceptance of a trial without giving up and thinking you’ll never get better or never be productive or that God will never heal you.
I know that God can do anything and He answers all prayer. However, I also know that sometimes His answer is yes, sometimes it’s no, and sometimes it’s wait. I’m waiting to be healed (whether in this life or in heaven), but I’m doing all I can to live my best life with God’s help.
Which stage are you currently in? I’d love it if you’d share your experiences. Next week, I’ll talk about once you get to acceptance, what next? Stay tuned!