The Mighty Logo

The Ongoing Process of Grief With Chronic Illness

Grief for me is the acute gut-wrenching awareness of unsurmountable loss. Some days or moments it can consume me. Other times I can empathize with it, talk to it and understand why it’s there. My grief is triggered when I experience reminders of what I can’t do, what I’ve lost forever and of my unfulfilled dreams that are very much still alive in my heart. I struggle with knowing what to do with all my dreams too. How long do I hold onto them for? Will they too just become one more drop in the ocean of things lost that I will soon come to grieve? I try to keep grief in one hand, and hold hope in the other, in a very clumsy teeter-totter balancing act. My hope can’t help but feel like a small light being turned on in a dark room some days.

Grief for me comes in succession like the waves of an ocean. With each passing tide, I feel my identity and narrative of who I thought I was, where I thought I was going, stripped away. Down past the flesh and bone, my body reduced to grain. It is at that place I witness the simplicity of my being that had been there all along. I guess you could say the complete dismantlement of my life introduced me to myself for the first time. That’s probably why I no longer recognize myself, and fought so hard in letting go.

Grief for me is losing the falsehood of control, safety and security. None are a guarantee; I only realized this by their glaringly painful absence. Vulnerability and fear which were once casual acquaintances, now take up residence in my mind. I have befriended them as best I can, so we can coexist peacefully. Some days I execute that idea more skillfully than others.

I grieve how easily and effortlessly life goes on. I wish I could have hit the pause button on my world when I got sick. I wish I could press play when I’ve recovered. You don’t get to do that because the world does not wait. I grieve how it has gone on, with or without me.

painting of a woman's back by the author

When I reflect back on the weight of grief in my life, it has also revealed many things. I experienced hope through hopelessness, impermanence through loss, the illusion of control through chaos, resiliency, perseverance and an inner strength I didn’t even know I could muster. This in no way minimizes the tremendously painful places these came from. I would have much rather read about these ideas through kitchy zen books in the comfort of a coffee shop, and continue on about my daily life. Alas, I had no control over that. What I do have control over is fostering a sense of hope. As long as I have hope, grief doesn’t take center stage. As long as I have hope, my dreams have space to breathe and exist.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home