It is not unusual for friends or associates to ask me how to help another friend of theirs who was recently injured to the point that they are permanently disabled.
I usually feel at a loss when this happens because, as I tell the person asking, I was born with my disability. I came to the acceptance thing a long time ago, as a child. I never had that moment when my life was one way then in a moment it was changed forever.
I try to explain that if I were to wake up and be completely healed of the Spina Bifida tomorrow, I would feel the same kind of loss that people feel when they are injured. It’s going from a life I know to something completely foreign and unwelcome. Most are flabbergasted when I say that, others gain a whole new understanding of me and how I live.
Adapting is like grieving
From what I know from friends who did go through a disabling injury, I’m able to tell people that when you go through something like that, it’s like the grieving process. No, you didn’t die but the life you knew is dead. A person must grieve the loss of life as they know it.
As I’ve come to that understanding, I’m realizing more and more that adapting is often like grieving. Even if you’re getting used to something good, there’s a small adaptation process where you must get used to life being different. Usually, however, this adaptation/grieving process is in relationship to something that is painful and life-changing in a devastating way.
I’ve seen this process in others and in my own life when it comes to many life-changing events. Even the aging process and the associated diseases and limitations can bring this on. What about other changes that aren’t health related?
I know I went through it when I was laid off three years ago. Even though I was ready to leave that job, I went through a major identity crisis that was very much like a grieving process. No, it wasn’t like a grieving process. It was a grieving process.
I thought I was over this?!?!?
As many of you know, I’ve had some ongoing health problems that aren’t related to the Spina Bifida but have certainly been exacerbated by the Spina Bifida. I’ve gone through denial, anger, severe depression and I’m now somewhere in the bargaining and acceptance stage. Other issues, like my bad hip really progressively getting worse in recent years, are disability related and I’ve found myself going through a more subtle form of the grieving process because of that.
When I first realized what was going on, I was both startled and well, angry. Angry that I was angry, which is a weird feeling to be sure! I’m not talking about the bitter, ongoing rage. I’m talking about being frustrated and irritated at the unwelcome changes in my life.
This whole thing really threw me for a loop because I kept thinking, “I accepted my disability! What is this? Was I just lying to myself? I should be over this!”
What I’ve come to realize is that I wasn’t lying to myself. I had accepted my disability as a child and I’ve accepted some of the smaller changes that have happened since then. But these more serious and life-altering changes are a change in my life as I know it. It’s not only normal but healthy that I am going through the grieving process. There’s no shame or self-pity in that. It’s just a process.
So what life changes have you gone through that have put you through the grieving process? How did you handle it? Leave me a comment!