Waves of Grief in Chronic Illness
Grief Doesn’t Just Come When People Die
Yesterday was a hard day – a day when pain and nausea nagged and taunted me the whole day, a day when grief in waves washed over me, reminders of loss, of restriction, of the shackles of chronic illness.
Grief doesn’t just come when people die, though that is one of the worst kinds. Grief comes wherever there is the loss of things important to us.
There is a Lot of Loss with Chronic Illness
Grief brings an anxiety, an inner pain that takes your breath away, a deep sense of loss and forced change, a feeling of being out-of-control, of not knowing what the future will look like.
The grief is real – yet unwelcome.
Grief is the uninvited visitor who barges in, brutally reminding you of every loss. You fight it, resist it, and want to chase it away. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you refocus and remember all the good things left to enjoy. But some days the battle rages as you dodge wave after wave after wave.
Sometimes You Have to Allow Yourself to Lament
You want to scream, cry, and shout out all your pain – the heartache, the weariness of constant battle. You don’t want to live like this. This is not how it was meant to be. You don’t have the energy to keep facing this kind of pain and suffering.
But there is absolutely nothing you can do but wade through the waves in search of peace. Sometimes you just have to grieve.
Sometimes you have to allow yourself to lament as David did in the Psalms. Sometimes you have to face the reality of the struggle, say how much it hurts, acknowledge how unfair it feels, and speak the REALITY.
Grief is a Painful Word
Grief is a painful word, and even more painful feeling, a reminder of how things used to be, how you hoped they would remain, who you thought you were and would be, the life you had in mind.
A significant part of my life died five years ago. My health shattered after one fall. I have forgotten what good health feels like. I don’t remember how it feels to have a body and brain that work normally, without a constant pressure and pain in my head and spine, screaming for attention, pulling me to distraction.
I want to be present, focusing fully on the people I’m with, the things I need to do, but this illness keeps shouting at me, demanding my attention. It is a relentless noise in the background of everything I do.
My Life Still Has Purpose and Meaning
Sometimes I just need to speak out the grief, the pain, the shame, the constant distraction, the exhaustion. When those waves of grief come, I am learning to let them BE for a moment. To acknowledge them – to voice them until I can find the strength to re-frame, refocus, and SEE the beauty that is still here.
Gratitude helps me focus on the wonder around me – my loving husband and family, a beautiful home, food on the table, amazing friends, the opportunity to write, encourage and teach, to make a difference in someone’s life, to love and be loved, to allow my pain to produce a deeper sensitivity to others’ pain, to remember that my life has purpose and meaning despite its debilitation.
Sometimes We Just Have to Let the Waves of Grief Come
This is not easy. The theory is good, the practice can be hard. Grief can be suffocating, distressing, disconcerting, disconnecting, and it can paralyze us, attacking our confidence, peace, mental stability, and the ability to recognize our purpose and worth.
But in facing and accepting grief, we can also learn to find a new way forward.
Published at beckyhillblog.com on 2/25/20. *Adapted and published with permission.
More posts from Becky
"Shame derives its power from being unspeakable….If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it,we’ve basically cut it off at the knees.Shame hates having words wrapped around it.If we speak shame, it begins to wither.” Brené Brown Over the summer, I read Brené...
Becky lives in Leicester, UK and is a wife to Matt, mum to two girls, and a pursuer of Christ. Becky and Matt love the local church and have been involved in pastoral ministry for many years. In January, 2015, Becky fell from a step ladder causing a debilitating cerebrospinal fluid leak, which means she has to spend much of her day lying flat. Becky loves words and writes to connect, encourage, share her journey, and inspire others facing suffering, chronic illness and pain.
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The art of letter writing can be a vital, life-giving ministry of hope to those who are hurting, grieving, recovering, homebound, lonely, ill, depressed, or isolated. While life-giving to the receiver, letter writing is also life-nourishing to the writer.
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