As with any permanent disability (even a temporary impairment, illness, or disease), the path we were traveling diverges into an unfamiliar one. We don’t plan on, nor are prepared for, these life interruptions. So, what to do?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler’s book, The Five Stages of Grief is a recommended read for understanding the emotional processes we journey through in order to reach the stage of acceptance. Whether it is death, disease, disability, illness, or a disaster, these stages are for anyone going through a significant loss.
Not everyone dealing with a life-altering or life-threatening issue will experience all five stages, and the stages may not occur in this particular order. As a “one-up” for anyone confronted with a traumatic event, I will vastly condense these five stages until you can read it for yourself.
1.Denial “I’ll be fine.” “There’s been a mistake.” Something overwhelming has happened and a state of shock ensues. We’re uncertain if we can cope with this new reality, if we want to, or even why we should. Denial helps us pace our grief. As we ask, “Why?” and “Why me?” we begin the healing process.
2.Anger Pain is disguised behind anger. Because we feel separated from normalcy by our predicament, anger connects us to something or someone—no matter how misguided. Some direct the anger at themselves; others may verbally abuse loved ones, even lash out physically. If you are family or a friend, wear an emotional bullet-proof vest or helmet for the duration. It isn’t personal.
3.Bargaining “If only” and “What if” lock us into the past where we were once safe; this allows us to time travel, back and forth, in our hurt. Bargaining is not sustainable.
4.Depression Sadness is a natural response to a loss, and the emotional detachment from life is evidence that we are looking reality in the face; but, this is not the time to try to cheer us up. However, with prolonged hopelessness, irrational or unrealistic thoughts, loss of appetite, and excessive sleep, professional intervention may be needed.
5.Acceptance Accepting a temporary or permanent condition does not mean that we believe it is an okay reality. It just means that we realize we must readjust, reorganize, and relearn to live life in a different way.
Once we’ve made it to acceptance, there will be occasional sadness and frustration. That’s being real. Then, it’s time to think about the future. Can you do something now to get back on the track you were traveling before? If so, go for it!
I went back into speech and language pathology, with a twist. I worked with the regular population before my disability; afterward, I worked in special education. An added benefit during my adjustment was that the workplace was accessible.
If that part of your life is over, try new things. In our PC world, there is a multitude of home-based opportunities. Just don’t allow a rut to form—physically or mentally.
After ten years, I began counseling and writing. After that, I used my interior design to start a business and kept writing. Early this summer, my first book is coming out! My life is still under construction, and my ideas continue paving new roads to travel.
Pay attention to the pop-ups on your mental screen. Is it something you regret passing up, or something you sacrificed? Is it on your bucket list, or is it a pie in the sky idea you dismissed and never reached for? They could be trying to tell you something.
“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” (Proverb)
It’s never too late to get back on a dream’s track.