Grief Begins at Diagnosis

Most people think of grief as sadness after a loved one dies, but grief is much broader. A better definition is the feelings caused by the change in a familiar pattern of behavior. This means that grief can be triggered by many life events – retirement, empty-nesting, relocation, divorce, and financial woes, to name but a handful.

One overlooked source of grief is when you or someone you love receives a life-altering health diagnosis. You’re catapulted into a world of doctors, treatments, diets, and care-giving/receiving. Your day-to-day life is markedly changed. In other words, grief begins at diagnosis.

Patients are often provided with emotional counseling, but rarely care-givers. Most push aside the fear, anger, stress, and sadness that come with grief. But this is not healthy and, if there’s one thing a caregiver needs to do, it’s to stay healthy. There are ways to take care of yourself and you’ve likely heard them all. But what do you do when every minute of every day is booked and there’s no time to shower, let alone attend a support group?

Think back to days gone by when generations of a family lived in the same house or on the same block. As soon as there was a diagnosis, everyone pitched in. No one had to ask; they just did what needed to be done. Grief and the accompanying care-giving were a ritualized dance done in the community. Sadly, we’ve grown away from that.

But we can recreate it to some extent. The next time friends, family, or members of the community offer to help, put yourself in their shoes. What if you wanted to give from your heart and were turned down? Would you feel frustrated? Or judged as incompetent?

Saying yes to these offers often means swallowing your pride and the accompanying feelings of shame over not being able to do everything by yourself. But it’s a small pill to swallow, compared to those being taken by the loved one for whom you need to stay healthy.


The Urban Family

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