The Evolution of Loss
One of the advantages of being a greeter for TUDiabetes is the number of people one comes in contact with. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t get introduced to some interesting people and ideas, as I go from profile to profile greeting and saying happy birthday. It is amazing to see the wonderful diversity of thought, talent and creativity in our community. I will say again and again if you have a desire to serve our community and meet some interesting folks, sign up to be a greeter. Speak with Marie or one of our greeters and we can get you hooked up.
An interesting thing that happened to me a few days ago was that I met a new diabetic who told me how difficult her life had had become since her recent diagnosis as a type 1. She told us (in chat), of her ongoing loss of independence, restrictions on her diet, loss of spontaneity etc. She was in effect restating the loss that many, if not most of us. felt when we were diagnosed. For me it was like listening to déjà vu all over again for me. I certainly could relate and I thought almost immediately of the five stages of loss. These are
1. Denial and Isolation
Now to sort of short circuit debate I need to acknowledge that different authors use different stages, some use 5, some 12 it runs a full spectrum of ideas each with advantages and disadvantages. I will leave it to others to discuss the pros and cons of each. As for me I learned the five stages, so for this essay we can leave it there for now.
It is interesting that many therapists, ministers, psychologists etc., suggest that all people suffer loss and a good deal of loss happens around death, but other forms of loss might include divorce, job loss, even the loss of a child when they go visit someone for the weekend. I mean let’s face it loss is a big part of life and getting some form of control over our own incidence of loss is a sign of maturity.
Well if we feel these reactions to loss, then it is logical to believe that we need these coping skills when we are told we have diabetes, we lose our former selves. I know felt that when I was told, and I image most of you felt the same. So I can and do commiserate with the young lady who was so upset. In fact my sense of loss extended not just for a few days or months but for years. It got in the way of dealing with diabetes and of my owning the disease, I was now left with.
At the time I was diagnosed with diabetes I wrote something that is long lost but I recall the gist of the writing. It said something like when you go the hospital and you are released you expected to be given an end date of the illness. Many if not most people leave the hospital and they are healed or at least they are on the way to healing. I did not feel that the day I was released from my stay related to diabetes and in fact I was not. What I was left with was a lifetime commitment to an illness partner I didn’t even like. Talk about feeling a sense of loss. Wow, I had it.
Still from the perspective of age I honestly found it difficult to commiserate with the young lady. It really was not a nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah sort of moment. Rather I listened with the knowledge of how much worse it could be. You see in the years since I have had this feeling about diabetes, I have had other loses. What was in my mind the most that evening was the loss I felt when I was told I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Now I don’t mean to start a discussion about what is better or worse; what is more troubling; or destructive, RA or Diabetes. That can only be decided by each individual who has both and perhaps some who have it longer than I. But for me, and only me, if I had to choose and I could only give up one or the other, I would give up RA in about 2 seconds. I would not even think twice about such a decision.
I am not saying I embrace or like or accept diabetes. I do not and I hate diabetes. It is just that I hate RA so much more. It is so much more painful, so much more harmful, so much more, well more. I realize this sentiment may not be popular on this board and believe me I understand. But after 16 years of both, I can live with diabetes, RA I have to live with.My young friend was not wrong to be upset and feel the loss when she got the news of diabetes. In fact I validated her feelings and I validated her loss. But I thought oh dear, it could be so much worse, if only you knew. It must have been the same for people listening to me when I was diagnosed with RA. I imagine the person with cancer saying oh my, it could be so much worse. You know what? They were right, it could be so much worse. You know what I wanted to say this me as a 17 year old kid? Oh my rick it could so much worse. Maybe that is a way to find our way back from such tragic losses. Oh my, it could be so much worse. I hope I learned a lesson for the future. Because yes Rick, it could be so much worse. So yes accept eh loss move through the stages of grief, it could be so much worse. Perhaps part of our future losses should be to tell ourselves, oh my, it could be so much worse.
Axelrod, Julie (2014). The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617