You know how when someone dies, a loved one often goes through stages of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance?
I think that when someone gets a diabetes diagnosis, they go through those same phases. No one has died in this case but something has-life as we know it. Our lives matter a lot to us, there is no denying that. So when a doctor informs us that we have a disease that will last the rest of our lifetime, requires constant monitoring and care, changes to habits and routines we may have in place, and causes all sorts potential health problems that bring about inconvenience and pain…well, it’s not unlike experiencing the death of a loved one.
I’m not saying it’s as painful as experiencing the death of a loved one. I’m just saying the stages of grief are the same. For example, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, my first inclination was to be like…”noo……really?” I quickly got angry and though I didn’t show it, I know it because my diary at the time has a page on it where I wrote, “Damn diabetes, I hate you!” The letters are made out in straight lines and you can tell I pressed down really hard, accentuating each stroke with multiple slashes from my ball point pen. Next came bargaining. I grew up in a place where almost everyone is religious and so friends would take me to their churches in hopes that their pastor could “cure me”. I went along because deep down I wished someone could. I also didn’t even think a single cuss word between the ages of 12 and 14 in an effort to be “good” enough for God to cure.
Then came depression. This stage lasted a long, long time. Many years in fact. There are catalysts that move us out from the first few stages of grief. We can’t physically handle staying in shock and in denial for too long. We only have so much adrenaline and reality is a very persistent nag. Anger usually leads to self-destruction and it wears us out until we realize it doesn’t improve anything. It doesn’t take long to figure out that bargaining isn’t going to cure us. But depression is a disease. It eats at our brains and takes away our strength every day. Depression literally changes the chemicals in our brains. So people often hang out at this stage for a long time. I was no different.
Acceptance. It’s so empowering, so forgiving. When we reach this stage a sense of peace comes over us. The thick cloud of our diagnosis lifts and we are able to hope, be inspired, and dream about our future. Life isn’t a drag anymore and our diagnosis might actually do the unexpected-bear gifts. We can move forward. We see potential and possibilities. We know we are going to be ok.
If you’re a diabetic and haven’t reached the final stage of acceptance, please know that you can. You just have to give yourself time to heal and time to learn about what your diabetes management requires. Nothing is wrong with you for grieving the loss of the life you once knew. And you have permission to move ahead when you’re ready. Get help for the tough days and look forward to the better ones.
They are coming.