The Five Stages of Grieving
Grieving usually is associated with the death of someone or something, a dream, a loved one, a precious item. There are five stages of grieving: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Everyone handles it differently. Everyone goes through the phases in some form or another, but we have to go through it to fully move on. People with diabetes usually experience these phases when they are first diagnosed. We grieve for our life of normalcy, our life before insulin injections and carb counting. In order to accept our disease and new lifestyle we have to mourn the life we used to know.
The first phase I experienced was depression. I remember when I was first diagnosed with diabetes sitting in the exam room and apologizing to my doctor because I was balling my eyes out. Then, calling my mom and having a complete break down. It felt so surreal, I knew about the disease, but I didn’t know anything about it. I went home and did what I usually do when I feel the world around me is out of control. I cleaned the house with tears streaming down my face. My best friend at the time came over right after I called her to comfort me; I think she may have even brought me flowers. I remember drying the dishes and telling her everything the doctor said. I felt complete guilt, how did this happen? Could I have done something different to prevent this? Why me? It was the most depressing thing for me at the time. I had just moved away from home to a new town, a new apartment, and a new life. I didn’t know how I was going to handle this new condition.
Then anger set in. I remember looking at every food label for the first time. Everything had carbs in it! I was so upset; I didn’t know what to eat other than water and vegetables. And at that time in my life I’d rather go hungry. Luckily I had an appointment with a nutritionist to learn how to eat as a diabetic. Once I learned how to count carbs and learned that I could still eat certain food I felt better and started to get the hang of my disease. Unfortunately, anger set in again at my next doctor’s appointment. I remember being overwhelmed with information about diabetes and just snapping. I screamed at my doctor (which I feel really bad about now) that I didn’t have time to be diabetic and I just needed to be fixed! Fortunately my doctor handled this outburst well and calmly explained he completely understood, and suggested attending a diabetes support group.
Bargaining was the next phase I entered. It was a short phase, but I still experienced it. I would tell myself, ok, I will take care of my diabetes as long as they promise me I won’t lose my feet. When I started finger sticks I bargained with my mom that I would do them as long as I could do it on my forearm rather than on my finger. But I soon realized bargaining was not going to help my disease.
I was never in denial about having diabetes. But I was in denial that there was no cure for diabetes. I was taking a physiology class at the time and we had to do a research project on a physiological disorder. I chose to look up studies that were researching a cure for diabetes. I was hoping and praying that I would come across a ground breaking cure and would not longer have to give myself daily injections. Unfortunately, there was no cure. I had to just come to terms with the fact that this was going to be my new lifestyle no matter how hard I tried to change that fact.
Finally, acceptance happened. It took months for it to take place, but it happened. When I accepted my new lifestyle I was able to learn everything there was to learn about it, without getting upset. I realized that I am the only person in control of my diabetes; after all it is my body that is malfunctioning. I have had my disorder for seven years and I still enter into some of these phases depending on the season of life. The nice thing is that whenever I go through a phase or two I always end up back where I need to be, accepting that this is my life and I’m ok with it.