I am Allowed to Grieve for My Health

I am Allowed to Grieve for My Health

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.

Liza Zoellick

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.

Authored by: Liza Zoellick

Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Nice post. Grieving about mu permanently nroken body has just become a normal addition to my personality and i see that as normal. Thank you for affirming our altered lives. Accepting it helps me go on.

Louis Ogden

To Alan, your response hit me hard. I am also a Virginian and own land north of Harrisonburg in Hardy County, WV. It is like magic to me. I love the woods and tranquility. Before the big flood in 1985, I used to visit a place in the George Washington National Forest near Harrisonburg called Hone Quarry. This particular place had a beautiful, old-growth forest of Hemlock. I was devastated when I visited after the big flood. Many of the trees were knocked down and the entire ecosystem has changed. I would love to have seen that Chestnut. I’m sorry they ruined your place and I understand how certain places can bring comfort from the pain.

Alan Edwards

Your kindness comes out of your writing, Lisa. My mother says I am “bitter”, weekly. She is far healthier than I. Being the only sick person in my immediate family and being shut out by emplyoyers, doctors, and screamed at by pharmacists has taken a very recent toll on me.

There were periods between migraines and laying out of school to hike in the deep woods that I was well. I stayed out of school when I had to publicly speak. If not, I would shake violently, my voice made unintelligible by spasticity. The class would laugh. Teachers were clueless and I decided to regularly pack a lunch and hike the streams running through the rarest uncut forest in Carroll County, Virginia. There were gems called garnets along the trail, caves, and deep pits. Giant trees, maybe hundreds of years old, housed warblers and pileated woodpeckers. I ate in safety, under a last surviving American Chestnut. No migraines, no pain. Only oxygen and shade. I was 14. Hooky continued until my graduation. Intractable pain started on my first day of hard labor on September 22, 1981. I knew something was wrong. At 2 am, I returned from work and told my mother I had never been in such pain. I knew something was wrong when the pain did not stop. My days of hiking were over. Doctors refused treatments until September of 2012. Tramadol, and Norco brought an end to my pain, but my job was lost. In March of 2016, my PAC was in a state of panic. She said laws had been changed. They cut the meds nearly off and went well below the effective dose. I knew those who were responsible by name. My life had been destroyed. 1977 had been destroyed. Doctors refused to treat pain even in that great decade. My life would have been so different if they had. The forest was cut down in 2016. The caves, trees, pits and gems are gone. So is the American Chestnut tree and giant Hemlock. How I wish to go back under those trees with soup and a sandwich, painlessly.

You have the best insight on people who have disabilities / intractable pain go through and express it so eloquently. Of all the writers I enjoy your articles the most. Your’s always seem to hit the mentality / emotions of people’s lives. I made the mistake of grieving in front of my doctor. I wouldn’t of broke down but something happened the day before my appointment that just added to being ticked off having multiple chronic pain issues. Plus I was on day 3 of a chronic migraine when I cried in front of the doctor and he knew I had a migraine cuz I told him that. Just warning don’t cry in front of your doctor. Just causes you more trouble. Think you have sympathy there even though they seem sympathetic no!
Anyway I think you are a good enough writer to write a book.

James McCay

Very well said. Great post!
I lived in FL for 9-years of my life. I always HATED NYC as an adult. But it’s hard to make a living in FL (most of my FL time was pre-eBay). I lived every day in FL as if it were my last, as instinctually I knew I’d get very sick one day. Too many unanswered weird medical problems since birth…

I went from snorkeling with wild dolphins (over a dozen times), a family of (3) manatees that came up to me, all kinds of stunningly colorful fish, I even frequented a place (Sailfish Point- Stuart, FL) where a river met the ocean with a jetty where BIG Great Barracudas (5-6 foot) hung out in groups waiting for freshwater fish to accidentally swim into salt (it puts them in distress which makes a quick meal).
I swam within inches of these “monsters” (as many see them). But I lived on adrenaline rushes and never did illegal drugs (I always hated taking any pills). I never had fear around ANY animal. Barracudas are harmless unless you are fishing or spearfishing! I ran my hand across the backs of a Barracuda a few times. You just need to stay clear of their front (3) cartilage teeth that are like razor blades. If they just brush against you, you’ll need MANY stitches!

I’ve gone to Key West just to go on scuba trips to snorkel where they were diving (I’ve had an inner ear issue since birth), so I couldn’t go deeper than 20-feet. I pet a 5+ foot nurse shark (always my dream to pet a shark). I would have pet whatever species I saw, but I only ever saw this one nurse shark on dozens of diving reef trips. The middle ocean Key West reefs are beyond beautiful. Parrotfish are especially beautiful. They have beaks like parrots to bite chunks of coral off the reef to eat the coral polyps. The sand they excrete make the beaches- AMAZING!

I’ve grieved knowing I can never do that again. But then I started using the memories to keep me going and sharing my stories with others. I still grieve, but the memories are priceless. So I’m happy.

Louis Ogden

I’m sure she is speaking of the title – “I am Allowed to Grieve for My Health!”

Stacie Wagner

I enjoyed reading this. Thank you

Katie Shafer

Thank you for this……
I didn’t see the meme though

Nard Mullan

Great piece. I needed this today. Thank you ❤️

Lucy

Thanks for your transparency in your writing. I couldn’t agree more that we need to grieve the picture we had for our lives, but it doesn’t mean we stop working on creating a new painting. Grief isn’t a once and done process…it’s fluid and comes with each different life stage, treatment disappointment, and some days just because. I tell people I allow myself a 15 minute pity party (always with chocolate!) and then keep moving because I can’t live there. Thank you for reiterating the need to have moments of frustration, crying, anger, depression, or however it manifests, but we cannot stay there.

The meme didn’t show up for me. If you have time, I’d love to see it in the comments. Thank you!!

Terri James

Liza dear, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for literally putting all of our feelings into actual words. God gave you such a beautiful gift and I’m so thankful you’ve chosen to use it in the way that you have. I pray your day is absolutely beautiful, just like you!❤🌷🌻

Diana

“When I was scrolling through Instagram, I found this meme, which I have included below.”
where is the meme?

Diana

“When I was scrolling through Instagram, I found this meme, which I have included below.”

I do not see the meme. I don’t think she meant to photograph at the top (?)

Diana

“When I was scrolling through Instagram, I found this meme, which I have included below.”
I do not see this meme and would like to… I don’t think she means the photograph at the top of the page, but maybe?