The Step That Comes After Acceptance in the Grieving Process
My diagnosis of lupus was a lot of things. It was a shock to the entire system. It was an introduction to a new world that was completely unknown to me. It was the catalyst to the greatest internal struggle I’ve ever experienced. But more than anything else, it was the death of the person I used to be and the start of a very arduous grieving process.
In many of my columns, I often separate myself into two versions: who I was pre-lupus and who I am now. Differentiating myself as if we were two separate people has been my way of trying to cope with the loss that came along with lupus.
In the past, thinking of myself in two versions seemed normal, helpful even. But tonight as I drove home thinking about how much I’ve achieved in the last year, I came to a realization: There’s an extra step in the grieving process that I had yet to acknowledge and achieve – healing.
Following my diagnosis, I hit every stage of the grieving process and eventually arrived at what I had assumed would be my final destination: acceptance. But even though I have been accepting of my reality with lupus for some time, something still felt incredibly unresolved.
To reach acceptance wasn’t enough, as to simply accept my circumstances meant living life in two parallels, constantly comparing myself to the girl I could have been without lupus, but would never be. I need to go one step further, past acceptance to a place where I focus — not on what I could’ve been or should’ve been, but on what I am, what I can be and will be.
After acceptance is healing. Healing means forgiving myself for the flaws and celebrating the strengths. It means refusing to pour longing into who I used to be and instead devoting my time and energy into who I want to become. It means putting one foot in front of the other, and knowing I’m on my way to the best possible version of my present self, lupus included. It means moving forward!
For too long, I’ve been marooned on acceptance, comparing myself to a girl who had everything. I know I don’t have all that she did, but I also know that not achieving the same things she might have doesn’t make my milestones any less significant.
It’s time to stop making comparisons. Time to be proud of all I have achieved and will continue to achieve, despite my illness. It’s time to remember all that girl used to be, but to let her go and walk an unknown path no longer in her shadow.
Truthfully, I don’t know what comes after healing. I do know, however, that this won’t be a short process and I’ll be here for quite a while. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was say goodbye to the person I knew better than absolutely anyone else: myself. But one of the greatest things I’ll ever do is to not just accept this illness but to overcome it, and ensure that it’s the impetus to a version of myself I know both of us would be proud of.
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Thinkstock photo via OlgaKN.