The five stages of grief consist of denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Apparently not everyone experiences all stages and not always in that order. It’s easy to recognize a need to process grief with the loss of a loved one. It’s not as easy when transitioning through a life-changing/threatening event.
Loss seems obvious in a circumstance such as mine—I lost the ability to walk. However, the real challenge is identifying the deeper loss of one’s lifestyle. Whether you’re confronted with cancer, stroke, paralysis, etc. there’s a loss of one’s sense of normal in addition to the physical loss.
Some conditions happen suddenly while others occur over time. Either way, the person experiencing the event is generally focused on the pure act of surviving while facing the inevitable medical challenges of test results, pain, fear, financial burdens, caring for one’s self and potentially others. Unfortunately, processing grief is not even on the radar. A byproduct of the undealt with grief becomes a roller coaster of emotions.
Most medical communities recognize the need for support systems and provide group therapy options. However, group therapy isn’t for everyone. I for one, wasn’t interested in a group setting, nor was I aware of the need for grief therapy. Many years after the onset of my condition, however, I discovered a few alterative support options.
· The Transverse Myelitis Association (myelitis.org) – a great resource for information as well as a connection with the TM community. In today’s social media environment there is a website or blog for every need.
· Outdoors For All (outdoorsforall.org) – recreational activities for individuals with disabilities.
· Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center (littlebit.org) – equine therapy for individuals with disabilities.
I discovered Little Bit a few years after my diagnosis. The community dealing with disabilities whether directly, as a parent and caregiver, or staff and volunteers, provides me with a positive outlet for my physical and emotional needs. I was also fortunate to have amazing friends and family that stood by me through the thick of my trials.
Until you find your niche, the community that best fits your particular needs, I recommend turning to your closest friends and family. They may not be in your shoes and know exactly where you’re coming from, but they have your best interests at heart and can help transition you through the grief.