My dear friend, your life has been turned upside down, and I’m so sorry. It’s awful and traumatic.
Having a chronic illness is much more than a physical trauma. It affects you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well. If you’re anything like me, processing and understanding how your life is changing will take time, and you may have many seasons of grieving. Today, I just want to tell you that that’s okay, and good.
Grieving helps us process. It helps us understand how we feel. It helps us get ready to fight later. So, give yourself the grace to feel sad, disappointed, angry.
I’m one of those abnormally optimistic people, and I have these deep seasons of grief as well. Sometimes they last only weeks (the easy ones). But often, they are much longer. For me, when it became clear that “this is the way life is now”, I grieved for many months. You are not alone.
I don’t want to pass over your grief lightly, so please hear that you are validated if/when you grieve. I don’t think there is a set “right” way to grieve, but I do think there are “healthier” ways and “less healthy” ways to grieve. Obviously, I’m no expert and would never claim to be. But may I suggest some things to you, so that you have an easier time of it?
- Don’t grieve alone. Talk to someone… But not just anyone. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to your spouse, your parent, your mentor, your oldest friend…Tell them anything you want. Or, maybe don’t talk, but just spend time with them. It’s so easy to isolate when you’re grieving, but now more than ever, you need to feel loved and known by safe people. So where you can, please force yourself to be your real, raw self with someone safe.
- Don’t let months go by focusing solely on your grief. You will be miserable if your whole world is wrapped up in your health. Distractions are good, especially distractions that cause you to be with people–going for coffee with a friend, exploring a new part of town, going to the movies. You need to have fun. A cheerful heart is good medicine.
- Think of ways to make other people happy in the midst of your grief. This is almost a part B of the previous point… When your whole world is focused on yourself, it’s easy to get depressed. You know what can you help you out of that funk? — Serving others. Taking the focus off of yourself for a little while can be a great mental and emotional rest, and best of all, it reminds you that you still have things to offer people. You can still help people, encourage them, spread joy… It reminds you that your life is not over. And it isn’t. You’re not done.
- Don’t allow others to tell you how to feel, or even allow yourself to tell you how you should feel. The word “should” is a red-flag in my life. Any time I recognize the thought that I “should this…” or “should that…” I decide to let it go. It’s okay for you to process your grief in your own way and in your own time. When well-meaning people say something that isn’t helpful, particularly when it puts pressure on you to be “fixed” by now, it’s a great option to shrug it off. You don’t need that. And you don’t need pressure from yourself either. Please, dear friend, let go of the expectation that you have to be a certain way.
- Cling to your faith. My experience is my own, so you may not feel this applies to you, and that is ok. I am a Christian, and when I started to get really sick (bedridden sick), I had a crisis of faith. I felt like my life was over, and that I didn’t have any worth anymore. I didn’t think I had anything to offer to anyone. But dear friends, I was wrong. Not only did I still have things to offer people (love, encouragement, cheerfulness in the midst of difficult circumstances…), but this was the beginning of God proving to me that He sees me, will take care of me, and has endless grace — much more grace than I give myself. In this grieving time, I over and over again prayed simple prayers of “Jesus, help me.” I was too tired, too sad to even say more words, but that was all it took. I experienced (and still do) great comfort and provision that didn’t make sense. My life became a complete paradox (hope when I had been hopeless, a promotion in a job where I was sick all the time, served meals and taken to doctors appointments by my friends even though I was doing nothing to serve them back). This is kingdom stuff. God’s kingdom is all about love, hope, and grace that doesn’t make sense in light of our circumstances. It’s beautiful, and you can experience it even now with prayers of “Help me, Jesus. I trust You.”
Dear friends, we are still in the beginning. There is so much in my heart to share with you. Being sick is awful, but your life can still have loads of hope; that’s what I want you to know. Even in the midst of life’s crummiest circumstances, you can have sweetness and richness.
As always, feel free to comment below, and I’ll be happy to respond to you.