Necessary Emotions

by Hannah the Zebra

Getting to the point where we accept our medical condition does not mean that we don’t go through strong emotions getting there. Nor does it mean that we won’t continue to have strong emotions. Accepting the limitations imposed by our bodies dose not mean that all of a sudden we say, “Yea! I have a disease that could kill me at any time and puts me in daily pain.”

And it shouldn’t. To reach the point where we accept our current life means that we have to grieve the loss of our old one. And grieving is work. Hard work. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who wrote the seminal book, On Death and Dying, among others (and which was required reading when I was in nursing school all these many years ago) talks about the stages of grief. We now know that those stages do not always occur in the order that Kübler-Ross lists them, but all the stages are necessary. We may find that our natural process is to skip over some and come back to them later, but going through the stages is not an option. If we are to truly heal from grief, we must experience it.

There is, unfortunately, no shortcut. I wish there was. Oh, how I wish there was. And grief, as any strong emotion, has a sneaky way of surprising you. You think you’ve worked through it, and then wham! You read a passage in a book, or a memory surfaces, or you see someone doing something that you love to do, and no longer can, and all of a sudden you feel like you can’t breathe, the sense of loss is so strong.

But it is all necessary. Never feel guilty about grief. Or the feeling of anger, which is actually a stage of grief. Those feelings are cathartic, and help us heal. They help us reach a state of equilibrium where we can begin to discover how we can best live our new lives. Lives that may be circumscribed with unwelcome limitations, but lives which nonetheless still give us opportunities to live in the present, with whatever degree of Grit and Grace we can manage. Some days it is more than others. And that’s ok.