This is a continuing series which began with this post. Looking at the diagnosis of a Chronic Illness in the framework of grief we’ll begin with the first stage called “Denial”. Please note that these stages do not have to happen in order, that people may not go through every stage and that people may waffle back and forth between stages.
Feeling denial may occur when a person is first diagnosed with a medical condition that they are told will last all of their lives and for which there is no cure. Denial may also occur if a person’s medical condition worsens, if he is diagnosed with other chronic illnesses or other medical problems, or if she is told that her condition has become terminal.
Denial is acted out in different ways. Sometimes we deny that we are sick at all. This is especially easy if we look healthy, which is common with some chronic illnesses like Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Diabetes and CFS. We can also be in denial concerning our need to care for ourselves physically, the need to prepare for the future and the lifestyle changes we may need to make.
For some people not getting over denial can cause them to not progress psychologically to reach the stage of acceptance. They may go along with their doctor’s treatment and even have surgery but not face what is really happening. This is like a parent whose child is having a large party. You find a hall for the party. You hire a caterer. You do all the work for the party but you never send out the first communion invitations. No one can attend the party.
Without getting over the denial no one can support you in a manner you need. No one can reach out to you or talk to you about your feelings. It’s the proverbial white elephant in the room. It makes others uneasy and you too.
So how do we conquer denial? Remember that moving towards acceptance means that you may go through sadness, anger and fear. But this process is so important. You will gain so much. You may need to be selfish for a while and this is OK. You are the person most affected by a life altering medical diagnosis. Take the time you need and let your loved ones know that this is what you need. They will be hurting of course so I don’t mean that you shut them out completely.
It took me time, tears, facing my fears, a lot of prayer and seeking the counsel of my Pastor and a therapist. You will find your own way. Just allow it to happen. If you are having difficulty there is nothing wrong in seeking help. You are not alone.