Many years ago I was introduced to the concept of “Self Grieving”, through an article I read authored my a person whom had cancer. As I read through this article I began to see striking similarity to my own experiences. The premise of “Self Grieving” is simply taking time to grieve for aspects of your life you have lost due to illness or disability. This thought impacted the way in which I began to perceive my own life, not only after having an Ileostomy, rather all three of my life altering diseases including Multiple Sclerosis along with Pyoderma Gangrenosum.
When a person is in the midst of a situation that will change the course of their life, medical or otherwise, it can be challenging to see what the new reality will look like when circumstances return to normal. We may think we know but in my case I was far off. You see, a physical ailment can easily transform into a mental struggle. We try to map out in our minds what our new realities will look like once the dust settles. Which often creates self conflict.
This is where this concept of “Self Grieving” becomes an effective tool to have in your mental toolbox. When looking back at past activities, we realize those activities may not look the same once life returns to the way it once was. As an example, after my Ileostomy I realized there may be certain activities I would not be able to engage in. At the time this had a significant impact on my mental wellbeing.
Self Grieving is the process to help ground negative thoughts and negative emotions. By processing thoughts of what can no longer be done or at least done in the same way, we are better suited to avoid negative self talk. Having an Ileostomy combined with Pyoderma Gangrenosum on my legs, I know for a fact I cannot crawl around on the ground with my children, I cannot kick a soccer ball around, I will forever have to be aware and protective of my shins and abdomen to avoid injury. I mentally grieved these losses before finding myself in situations where I would be confronted by my new realities. This helped to lessen the blow significantly.
This process also helped me to discover ways in which I could adapt my daily routines and tasks. By calmly thinking of the things I could not do, allowed me to begin to come to terms with my losses. Of course I would have negative self talk enter my head during this process. I would, and still do, become very angry with the situations I have been given. Especially when I realize they are not self inflicted, simply part of my life. What I have done since my experience with Ulcerative Colitis and the consequential Ileostomy, is to adapt to what works for me.
Grieving for aspects of your life lost can be an awkward topic for people to discuss. For myself, this is the first I have spoken about its influence in my own life. Without being realistic with yourself, as I was with myself, it will be forever difficult to move forward. This is not a quick process by any means, it becomes saddening and aggravating to be this honest with yourself. That being said, when working this process, always be aware of what is great in your life. For every negative thought, remind yourself of at least two positives in your life. If you fail to do so it is easy to fall into a state of self pity and deeper anger.
Through my experience, I have found great reward in practicing Self Grieving. It has become a simple process and truthfully, sometimes leaves me in a better state of mind as I identify at least two positives for every negative. As I was determining what to write this week’s article about, and putting deep though into how this process has really impacted my life in a positive way, a phrase entered my mind that tied it all together. I also used it to create the image for this post to serve as a reminder of what Self Grieving really means.
“In Life you have to Grieve to Live,
Not Live to Grieve”