The Mourning Period After My Chronic Illness Diagnosis


It may sound strange to mourn health. It’s not like you’ve lost something physical. You’re not going to die, and you haven’t lost a loved one. But losing your health could very well be the greatest loss you have to deal with in your entire life.

When I was diagnosed with gastroparesis and severe post-infections IBS, I wasn’t prepared for the crushing grief. I expected the shock, sadness, frustration and physical symptoms, but not the grief. It was grief for the life I once led, that I no longer could lead.

Developing a chronic illness is like having an external factor, beyond your control, take a look at your life and say no. No to pain-free days, no to a fulfilling lifestyle and no to being able to continue doing the things you love. So when you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness you’re not just losing your health, you’re losing your lifestyle and your means to live your life the way you enjoy. You just might also lose your happiness. That’s a lot to lose.

When people tell me they admire me for dealing with so much physical pain, they don’t even realize they haven’t acknowledged most of what I’m battling. A chronic illness is never just an illness. It’s not just the physical, but the emotional pain. It’s the lost opportunities, reduced ability and saying goodbye to the life you know.

For me the hardest part about leaving my old way of life behind was watching everyone in my life continue living normally. It’s not that I don’t want the best for them, but seeing life move on for everyone while mine had frozen still was hard. Watching friends I had started uni with finish and start their careers while I was taking time off or back in hospital. Knowing former colleagues got promoted to more fulfilling roles, while I hand in my resignation for a simple part-time job because it has become too hard to manage. Hearing stories from my friends out and about on the weekend, while I sat at home missing out on all the memories. It’s pain even stronger than the physical pain I live with.

This was my mourning period. Where I was grieving everything I once had, unable to accept the challenges that lay ahead for me. It’s a period of time you can’t avoid, or rush through. It’s part of the diagnosis process and necessary to learn how to accept and move on with your life as a chronic illness warrior. Only when I stopped comparing my life to those around me and started celebrating my small achievements and strength, did I stand a chance of getting through the mourning period. And the good news for all chronic illness warriors is, the mourning period does end, and acceptance will come. No matter how bad you feel, know you are worthy, and there are people who understand and recognize your fight.

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Photo via kieferpix on Getty Images

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