Guest Blog: The Cycle of Grief

by Krissy Ward

   Written by Alice Jones Hawley 
 People may wonder what grief has to do with chronic pain and illness... Well a whole lot actually. When a person starts to live with Chronic Pain, their whole life changes. They can no longer live the life they live and there are many things they just can't do anymore.

The Stages in the Cycle of Grief:
* Shock and Denial*
     When people with Chronic Illness are first diagnosed, it can be quite a shock to learn that their life will never be 'typical' again. This often results in them denying that this is happening and avoiding acceptance.
      Once over the initial shock, we often become angry, unhappy that our lives will never be the same again. It can cause people to act out or isolate themselves.
     This is not necessarily the mental health illness, but purely a state of constant unhappiness. Understandably, it can also have an impact on mental health.
*Dialogue and Bargaining*
     At this stage, people with Chronic Illness start to speak out about their health, form connections with others who have similar difficulties and try to find their purpose. Many people at this stage reach out to God or religion.
     This is the point when we accept that we have a life impacting condition, and can therefore learn to adapt in order to have the most fulfilled life. At this stage, we find that piece of hope that keeps us going.

     This cycle will continue throughout life with Chronic Illness. The stage of acceptance will become longer eventually and the periods of anger and depression that may have started lasting months can simply become days, hours or even minutes. Accepting Chronic Illness is not something that can be done at the touch of a button, and you mustn't get frustrated if you get stuck in a stage for a period of time, this is normal.

     My personal experiences of the Cycle of Grief started when I dropped out of my dream university because of my health. I had to grieve the person I believed I would be in the future. It took some time, but I finally realised that I could not achieve my dream the same way that everyone else could. I couldn't do what I wanted to do in the way I wanted to do it. It was difficult to watch my life slowly change from one of an able bodied person to one of a disabled person. But then I found hope.
I found that there was nothing I simply couldn't do. There was nothing that could stop me from achieving my dreams and goals. I just had to take the longer, scenic route.

     I've found a way of doing what I want to do at university in a much more manageable setting, with support from the university, wonderful friends and family. I can achieve what I want to achieve, but first I had to accept that it would be different. 🥄🥄

     I will continue to travel round this cycle for the rest of my life, each time the "Acceptance" being a longer period of time and the others, much shorter. There will be something that will be difficult for me, or I will find myself in a wheelchair and frustrated at a lack of independence. But each time I know, I will come back to acceptance, I will carry on, I can do this.

     You must carry on. You must not lose hope. You will come round to acceptance, for the first time and then again and again and again. You can do this.

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