Arthritis and Grief
Understand the feelings of loss and grief that often come with chronic illness. Learn how to deal with your grief in helpful ways.
Getting a diagnosis of a chronic disease like arthritis can stir up many emotions: disbelief, shock, anger and loss. Grief is your reaction to loss. How you react to the losses you encounter over the course of your illness is as individual as you are.
Because arthritis is chronic, Doka says, you may encounter new losses and ongoing grief over time. For example, grief may hit you if you have to give up a beloved sport or hobby, or you are prescribed a more aggressive medicine, or you have to switch to part-time work.
Elements of Grief
The once-popular five stages of grief model suggests people process their feelings in the following order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But no studies have shown that these linear stages of grief exist. You may experience any or all these emotions during your grieving process. They may not happen in a particular order, you may move back and forth between emotions, or you may have different reactions altogether.
Reactions to Living with Arthritis
- Physical reactions: hyper-awareness of your body, headaches, appetite changes, sleep problems, lack of energy.
- Cognitive reactions: not thinking clearly, lack of focus, excessive worry.
- Spiritual reactions: feeling closer to your beliefs, feeling betrayed by your beliefs.
- Behavioral reactions: skipping activities, avoiding friends, inability to sit still.
- Emotional reactions: anger, guilt, numbness, apathy, anxiety, sadness, despair, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Riding the Wave of Grief
- Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel.
- Face your diagnosis and life with arthritis head on.
- Develop an action plan – start by writing down questions for your doctor.
- Control what you can – eat healthful foods, exercise, take your medicines.
- Reduce stress – try meditation or yoga, avoid people who are not supportive.
- Seek social support and build a network of positive friends and family.
- Be patient with yourself – ups and downs are expected.
- Adjust your self-identity – embrace the person you are today.
- Seek counseling if your self-care measures aren’t helping.
Stay in the Know. Live in the Yes.
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