When I was scrolling through Instagram, I found this meme. It resonated within me immediately, as I’ve written about mourning the lost you before. But this took it a step further in my mind, giving yourself permission to grieve for your health. It’s no longer a past tense of mourning who you once were, but grieving for your health as it as now. It’s not something that we take the time to do and I think that it’s not only important, but beneficial to the care and feeding of our soul.
Chronic illness is notorious for stealing many things from our lives besides our health. It steals our peace of mind; it steals some of the joy in out lives even though many of us can take back some of it. It steals our ability to do things spontaneously, for many of us it steals our livelihood and forces us onto another career path or disability. Its partner in crime, chronic pain, is also guilty of stealing much of the same things while leaving many of unable to move like we once did and many of us find ourselves walking with the aid of a mobility device. This can rob from us the sense of youth our age may reflect but our body doesn’t. Allowing ourselves to grieve for our health and for all those things it has stolen from us allows us to forgive ourselves and to move on in a positive direction.
When I read that I realized that I have been trying to grieve for my health but I feel like I keep hitting road block after road block, usually from well-intended people in my life who do not understand that this grieving is normal. I don’t blame them, because I understand them. I am even grateful that they intervene sometimes, but it does hold me back. I’ve forgiven my body, to a certain extent, its betrayal of my 45-year-old self. I try not to mentally or emotionally abuse myself when I see pictures of my old, High School friends running marathons or going on these amazing out-door adventures that I can’t do. It’s difficult to keep the green-eyed monster away at times but holding myself personally accountable for something I had no control of has become less and less. However, there’s still more work to be done.
What do I personally mean when I say allowing yourself to grieve for your health? I mean it very literally, to mourn for your health, to grieve and lament for your health in the present. What I don’t mean is to continue, for an un-specified amount of time, where you sink into a depression and are not able to get out. This can be tricky, especially if you already struggle with depression of bipolar, which is why I mentioned not being upset with people who intervene in my grieving process. I think it’s okay to cry sometimes. I think that screaming and beating your fists against the wall (figuratively speaking) is needed. I think cursing up at the heavens and asking “why me” is absolutely normal. I also feel that you may need to grieve more than once during the course of an illness. It might be that you grieved, got better, moved on and suddenly things got worse. This may necessitate the need for more grieving. Our health is not static and it is constantly evolving. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. We shouldn’t tell someone that just because they were diagnosed five or ten years ago, that they aren’t allowed to grieve now when their illness has taken a turn for the worst. We’re all different. We all need to grieve at different times, for different lengths of time and ALL of it, is OKAY.
When the grieving is over, we must move on. We must find a positive direction to move toward. If you find that during this move toward a positive direction, that you need to grieve again that’s okay. But you must keep in your mind at all times that you are making an effort to move toward that new direction you were striving for. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it either. Sometimes moving on means baby steps. But every day those baby steps should take you further and further. It’s not easy, finding a new direction. I’m not going to lie. I have to think about the positive direction I want my life to go in ever day. But I find that it has gotten easier to stay the course if I need to step back and grieve a bit. I think everyone needs a positive direction but I think those who are fighting illness and pain need it more because it’s so very easy to get sucked into the vortex of just feeling sorry for yourself. And that isn’t grieving. Grieving is just a stepping stone toward something else. And that something else can be different for everyone.