My Family and the Stages of Grief
When you go through a major loss of someone close to you, well-documented stages of grief occur. These stages happen with death, divorce, and a major illness. I never realized that a diagnosis could cause grief. For me, it was not only a new revelation, but I also realized that my family went through these stages, too. The person they once knew as Kellie McRae was gone, and they, too, mourned her.
Denial. This was my dad. When I first got sick, I could hardly keep him on the phone for more than five minutes. He would ask how I was, and when I would tell him, he would remind me that so-and-so has lupus and she is fine. The result was that I just stopped telling him how I felt. He would call and I’d say things were fine, I had no complaints.
Then the day came when I went to the doctor and my 5-foot-8-inch frame was down to 116 pounds from 170 pounds. I lost it. I cried into the phone telling him how scared I was that I was dying. Things changed from that day forward. He also learned from “so-and-so” that she is not fine. Now he listens and asks more pointed questions than he did before.
Anger. This is my daughter. When I shared my diagnosis with her, she immediately became angry. She began shouting and crying. I’m a former fitness competitor and I’ve always been a fairly healthy eater. When she and her brother were growing up and didn’t feel well, we always turned to natural remedies before any over-the-counter medications or pharmaceuticals.
She wanted to know how someone could be healthy all her life and then end up becoming a perpetual pill-popper. She then decided it was her dad’s fault for not helping to raise them. She said the stress of the struggle was more than likely to blame and that my body had been waiting for them to be adults so that it didn’t have as much going on and could now allow this illness. She’s calmer now, but still unhappy about something that she believes could have been avoided had I had help.
Bargaining. In another column, I mentioned that my mother is a Bible totin’, scripture quotin’ Jesus girl. Well, she has always had a healthy belief in the Lord, but before, you could talk to her without that being part of every other sentence. Now, no matter what you talk to her about, prayer, faith, the Lord, or a scripture will be brought into it. I know my mother loves me. She was so afraid she was going to lose me that I think she is keeping a promise.
I can almost hear her saying, “God, if you let my daughter live, I will share your word everywhere I go,” and she does. I will be honest, sometimes it is a bit frustrating, but I try to understand. Sometimes you want some practical, earthly advice, but I also know that belief is a strong thing so I am grateful that she was willing to bargain for my life.
Depression. This one is me. I mask what I feel with humor and do my best to find laughter in everything I do. I journal and write articles and that helps me get my real feelings out. For me, writing is therapy and talking is therapy, but a lot of sadness comes with saying goodbye to a loved one, and I think it may be even harder when that loved one is you.
In all of the other forms of loss, you no longer see that person. Your ex-spouse moves out and if you see him or her, it’s only on occasion, allowing you healing time in between. If the person died, you will only see them in photos and, again, that gives you the chance to heal. When it’s you who you are mourning, you get to look at that person every time she brushes her teeth and hair or washes her face. You see that person all the time, and I think the healing process may take longer. I cry as much as I laugh, and I laugh a lot!
Acceptance. This was my son. As soon as I delivered the message, he was upbeat and said, “Mom, you’re superwoman, you beat everything. You’re going to beat this or at least give it a run for its money.” It seems my weight has really been the gauge, and when I phoned him to say I was down to 109 pounds, that’s when he finally lost it. His tears hurt me because he is so much like me, always finding humor in the toughest situations, that I really should have known he was feeling more pain than he was showing.
Now, I try to be more attentive about what my family is feeling when I share news. I realize they are all processing this thing in different ways, and the same way I want understanding for what I am going through, I also realize they are going through some things as well. I try to be more understanding about their feelings, too.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.