Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Grieving Process

I used to think that the grieving process was reserved for mourning the death of a loved one.   Then I learned that this process applies to being diagnosed with an illness: chronic, incurable or terminal.  In actuality, the grieving process can occur for any kind of loss - big or small.

5 Stages of Grief
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These stages don't necessarily happen in order, everyone and every circumstance is different. Not everyone will go through all five stages. Stages can be revisited. Sometimes stages can occur at the same time: denial & anger, depression & acceptance, etc.  And sometimes, it can take years to get through the process - if ever.

While upon diagnosis, I entered the stages of grieving with the new realization that my life would never be the same and that my future was quite uncertain, I actually came to terms with having multiple sclerosis quite quickly.  It’s as if I had known all along, subconsciously.  I went straight from acceptance to anger, bypassing bargaining with the occasional trip down depression lane, but there was no denying what I had been dealing with for the past thirteen years - that was real and was never “in my head.”  I think it was in my best interest not being diagnosed immediately.  I’m not sure who I would have become had I been given such a grave diagnosis so early in life.  But having dealt with various MS symptoms disrupting my life for over a decade and rehabbing myself over and over again out of necessity and ignorance that I wasn’t supposed to bounce back provided me with a fight and determination to beat this disease.  I harnessed my anger to research and demand more than what the traditional medical protocol had to offer, and that dogged determination is what ultimately led me to learning how to beat MS.

With the MS stages of grieving taken care of, I found myself in unfamiliar territory - I began to grieve over the food that I could no longer eat.  The food that I had grown up with, celebrated holidays with, socialized with family and friends with…

I have come to realize that grieving can accompany the diagnosis of a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity as well.  Because when one receives such a diagnosis, it's inevitable that you will need to let go of that food - no matter how familiar, comforting, loved or ingrained in one's life.

I have many food allergies and have gone through the grieving process with each diagnosis, even though at the time I had no idea I was doing so.  Now that I recognize it, it makes it no easier to accept, but at least I better understand my thoughts and behaviors and can manage them more appropriately.

While I can't control how my body reacts to certain foods, I can control the food I consume and thereby stop the damage.  So while, I may mourn the loss of a food I once loved; I find solace that I am once again helping my body heal and repair itself and thereby reaping the benefits of my sacrifices, which in the big picture really aren’t sacrifices at all.

The grieving process is an important process and one that can't be avoided or shortcutted.  If you find that you're having difficulty getting through the process yourself, talk to someone - a friend, a family member, a fellow MS'er, or a professional.

Beating MS!


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