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The Grieving Process

 It has been about 6 weeks since the whirlwind of events, cancer diagnosis, surgery, consultations with oncologists and radiation oncologists, as well as physical therapists.  I am one that does not like to go to doctors!  Enough!  But, what I am learning, is that I am going through the grieving process.

You may recall, from years ago, the esteemed Swiss-born doctor Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, identified the five stages of grief in her famous book, “On Death and Dying”.  It was initially relating to the awareness of one’s own pending death, but these concepts have broadened to anyone suffering from a significant loss of something very important to them.    It is important to note that not everyone goes through all five stages and some may go through the stages in a different order, and may go back and forth through the stages.  Grieving is a very individual process.  So, what are the stages of grief?
1.        Denial:  This, by far, is usually the first reaction.  “This can’t be happening to me; no, they are wrong.”  It may be more difficult to accept if the incident was totally unexpected or sudden.  It is not uncommon for people to go from one doctor to another just hoping that the diagnosis was wrong.
2.       Anger/Blame/Guilt:  Once the reality that this is happening becomes clear it is normal to become angry, very angry.  It is also common to look for blame and then self-guilt.  Whose fault is it.  “Why did this happen to me?”  If only, if only, if only……..  Just realize that this is a normal process.
3.       Bargaining:  Some people may find themselves bargaining, bargaining with God, bargaining with their spouse, promising to do better from now on, eating better, stopping smoking, stopping gambling, or whatever they feel may have contributed to the issue at hand.  Once the true reality sets in, the next stage may be depression.
4.       Depression:  This is when things really hit you and the reality of your situation becomes crystal clear.  This is a time when you may cry, shout, withdraw from others, lash out, and feel totally helpless and hopeless.  Suicidal thoughts may arise.  Professional help may be invaluable to those who are struggling with this stage.
5.       Acceptance:  This is the final stage when you accept the loss and what is happening to you and are ready to move on to a more normal functioning and life.  This is not to say that things will be normal again, but a “new” normal. 
There will be times when new issues arise and the feelings will bounce back and forth among the stages.  It is NORMAL, NATURAL, and HEALTHY. 

The key is finding support where you can, from loved ones, friends, clergy, closed support groups dealing specifically with the issue at hand.  You are not alone in this.  Others are going through this as well and can understand the feelings.   So, I remind myself that It’s OK to cry.

Stay well; Stay healthy, Stay focused.

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