Reacting to Illness, Part 2 of 3

 
If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?
-Shantideva

From "When Life Becomes Precious: The Essential Guide for Patients, Loved Ones, and Friends of those Facing Serious Illness" by Elise Needell Babcock:

ELEVEN REACTIONS to news of serious illness (part 2)

Loss of Control

"I feel so helpless, so powerless against this disease."
"It's not even in my body. I wish I had it instead of my wife."
"The doctors have all the power. I feel helpless and naïve in dealing with them."
"I used to be able to manage my career, my family, and my household. When my wife got cancer, I felt like I couldn't manage any of them."

Family members and other loved ones have an especially difficult time dealing with the illness because they are on the outside looking in. They cannot fix it. They cannot see it. Not knowing what is going on and always having to rely on others for information can leave them feeling powerless.

Grief

"I grieve for what we've lost and what we're going to lose."
"I'm grieving not only the loss of his health but of everything it meant to our marriage."
"I find myself crying when I see people walking together or holding hands or laughing. I suppose I'm grieving those times when our lives appeared as carefree."

From the moment this disease storms in and turns your world upside down, you experience losses. You experience some losses right away and others later on, as the illness progresses. Dreams, finances, roles, and relationships as you have known them are destroyed, or at the very least, altered forever.

Grief is the natural way to respond to loss. Suppressing or denying grief is not only abnormal, it will have a detrimental effect on your well-being. Suppressed grief can be extremely volatile.

Guilt

"What was I thinking when I yelled at her? How could I have been so unfair?"
"Sometimes I wish she'd go quickly and peacefully. Then I feel guilty for feeling that."
"I know I should call more, but I can't handle having to go through my stepfather to reach my mother."

Guilt occurs when, in retrospect, you think you should have done something differently, or should not have don't it at all. You should have pushed your husband to get to the doctor sooner. You shouldn't be spending so much time with an ill parent because you're neglecting your children. You should be doing everything better. You shouldn't resent people who are healthy.

You feel guilty when you do not meet your own expectations. You expect yourself to be perfect in a role that has no written job description, a role that is unpredictable from day to day, a role that depletes every bit of your energy.

Anxiety

"What's the doctor going to say when she emerges from the operating room?"
"What are the test results going to show?"
"What will happen to me, to our hose, to our children?"

You may find yourself getting tense, worried, and short-tempered more often than before. You may be sleeping less, forgetting things, or making poor decisions. Your anxiety can come and go unexpectedly. Like some forms of anger and guilt, its origins may elude you. Anxiety can emerge from seemingly unrelated circumstances or from fear of the unknown. If you knew what was going to happen, you might not feel anxious.

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