The Mighty Logo

Why I'm Grateful to Grieve the Loss of My Life Before Becoming Ill

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

This year has been one full of uncertainties. I have had ups and downs both physically and mentally, but I never know where my life is going next. With a chronic illness you never know whether to expect a good pain day or a day spent sobbing. What I am certain of, though, is that I am still grieving the life I lost.

When I became ill earlier this year I lost so much. I felt as though my teenage years had just disappeared. I realized I no longer would be able to do much physical activity or lead a “normal” life. Trips to the roller rink were soon replaces with trips to numerous specialists. There are so many small things I lost as well. I have never longed to wear high heels, dance, or run before in my whole life. These losses may seem like small sacrifices to live a healthy life, but I never will be healthy. I lose these luxuries so that I do not become more sick than I already am. These losses bring on a major wave of grief. I grieve the loss of cheerleading. I grieve the loss of painless days. I grieve the loss of a healthy life.

Something a man told me last week changed my perspective on this grief, though. At training for a school program, a speaker recounted a story of a girl he met. She had lost her grandfather and was in a very dark place. When he talked to her, she told him all about her grieving, depression, and the hole in her heart that her grandfather left. Later she came to an astonishing realization. She told him she was incredibly happy to be sad. When he asked her to elaborate, she explained that she is happy to have so many great memories with her grandfather that she is forced to grieve the loss of him. He could have been a terrible grandparent she wouldn’t miss, but instead he was her rock.

This completely changed my perspective on my grieving process. I realized that I am so upset by the loss of my old life because I had a great life. I had friends, family, sports and fun. These opportunities led to some amazing memories I can never replace. I used to wish I had always been sick so I would not grieve my past life, but I now realize that if I had always been ill, I would never have experienced as much as I have.

I realized I may miss the feeling of being able to cheer, but I would rather miss that feeling than not have the feeling to miss. For this reason I am so grateful to be grieving. I am grateful to forever hold on to memories of winning state cheer, running a mile, or even living a pain-free day. I might have lost so much with my chronic illness, but I have gained a new perspective on life. I now live my life to the fullest without the fear of losing anything. I realize as my life has shifted from cheerleading to new passions, one day I may lose one of my new opportunities, but I no longer fear the loss of it. I would rather have the memories of the past than the dreams of what could have been.

For all these reasons, no one with a chronic illness should ever feel bad for grieving the loss of their past life. It is a difficult thing to move past, but hold onto this thought: to grieve something means that it held a special place in your heart, so be grateful for the memories you made and hold onto them for as long as you can.

Originally published: August 3, 2016
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