Stages of Grief

Stages of Grief

Important Dates

I am realizing that I am not far off from several big dates on the calendar. All of which, I would consider important.

First of all, I am now weeks away from my daughter making her grand entrance into the world and blessing us with her presence. The second important date is that my son is turning two at the end of February. And finally, my one year anniversary from my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis will happen near the end of March. 

Clearly, my children’s birthdays are important and special. But, are you wondering why I think that my diagnosis anniversary date is important? Ha. Believe it or not, instead of dreading that date, I am happy because I have made it a full year knowing that I have a life-changing disease and that I am going to be okay. When I was first diagnosed, I sure was acting like it was the end of the world. I cried A LOT. Mitchell was a trooper and super supportive through all my emotions. There are real fears attached to a diagnosis that has a lot of unknowns. But, I sort of had to go through a process, similar to the stages of grief, to get where I am today. 

Stages of Grief

Looking back on the past year, the stages I went through to get to acceptance are quite similar to the stages of grief. I truly believe I flipped around between denial, anger, and sadness (I don’t think I ever quite reached a state of depression) for a few months. 

Initially, even while meeting with the doctors and going through more tests I was convinced that this was not an accurate diagnosis. I was overwhelmed with even the idea of having Multiple Sclerosis. I was constantly questioning what this means for my future, for my life, and how this changes who I am as a person. Some days I would work to convince myself this couldn’t be real because I have only ever had that one isolated incident and I am perfectly healthy otherwise. I even thought at one point, what if they had the wrong brain scan. Ha! I mean, accidents happen right?

At times, I would just get angry. Often thinking, what the hell? Why me? How come I have to live my life with an unpredictable and potentially brutal long-term disease and others around me get to be perfectly healthy? What did I do to deserve this? 

Once I would let the anger out, the anger would turn into sadness. Realizing that certain aspects of my life may be different than I planned or hoped for. Also, realizing that I truly wouldn’t want to wish this diagnosis onto someone else just to be “free” of it myself. But, I was sad for myself. I was sad for Mitchell, and for my kids. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone and I don’t know how this might impact my life or my family.

One stage that I never quite experienced was bargaining. I never really thought that there was anything I could currently do to change my diagnosis or make it disappear. I am, however, hopeful and prayerful for a cure. That would be a true miracle, but I never found myself bargaining with God that I would do anything if he just took this disease away from me. And looking back to think if there was anything I could have done to prevent this disease, at most, I get angry with myself for not taking Vitamin D supplements. Otherwise, I know there really wasn’t anything that I did to cause this to happen to me. I guess I could go back to college and wish that the year I got mono I instead got the swine flu-like everyone else. But, I probably would have wound up getting mono at another point in my life, or something else would have triggered my MS. There wasn’t really anything I could have done to have stopped this from happening. So, I just never really found myself wondering if I had made other choices if this diagnosis wouldn’t have happened for me.

The Final Stage: Acceptance

After the initial stages of denial, anger, and sadness, I started to realize that this is a reality that I needed to accept. For me, this stage has layers within itself. 

First, it was convincing myself that I am in fact, okay. This diagnosis didn’t change the way I am currently feeling, which is fine. It didn’t mean that I needed to live into the symptoms that I may one day experience. And, it doesn’t mean that I am going to relapse within any certain amount of time or start to experience symptoms at any time. The reality for me is that while the diagnosis could impact my future, and I could have a relapse any day, there is no reason to let the diagnosis alone impact my present well-being.

Secondly, it is accepting that this is part of my life and my story, but it doesn’t change who I am. Having an autoimmune disease doesn’t mean that I am suddenly someone different. But, it has opened my eyes to try to live a bit differently and not take life for granted. I still have the same passions, dreams, and hopes as before. 

The acceptance phase has also really been eye-opening to me about my own personal health. Even though I am the same person and I am currently healthy, in accepting that I have an auto-immune disease, I need to be aware of what can trigger my disease. Two huge factors include stress and infections. My first flare could be attributed to both or either. I get incredibly anxious flying, meeting new people, and being placed in new social situations, all of which happened for my work. By the way, that job was by far one of my favorite jobs with some awesome coworkers, so I don’t regret going on that trip or working there. But, there was also a cold being passed around on that work trip, and I was coming down with the sickness when I got my first flare. Being aware of the amount of stress my body can handle is going to be important for me. I am realizing that I need to take steps to be as healthy as I can be. Both mentally, and physically. I will do my best to stay healthy during cold and flu season, but unfortunately, sometimes sicknesses are unavoidable. My number one goal is to do what I can to be healthy for my children and my family and that means minimizing stress, if possible. 

Moving Forward

Acceptance doesn’t always mean that I am okay, or happy about my diagnosis. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments of sadness or fears about the future. In fact, I just shared one with Mitchell the other day and I think I caught him off guard a bit. I am not trying to pretend that life will be easy or perfect. Or, that I have it all figured out from here on out. I don’t believe that by accepting the disease that the next time I have a relapse it will be easy to accept. I am not looking forward to having yearly MRI scans for the rest of my life, in fear of finding new lesions. For me, acceptance means that I can keep living and enjoying my life. That I will figure out how to keep going when the inevitable happens. It means that taking medication that might have some miserable side effects is essential to my long-term well-being. I will do my best to take care of myself and live a healthy life. And most importantly, acceptance means trusting God and his plan. His plan is always better than my plan. It may be hard to accept what he has planned, but I am hopeful that there something better than I could have imagined at the end.

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.

Lamentations 3:31-33







2 responses to “Stages of Grief”

  1. Kim Avatar

    Great writings! I love you dear one and will always support you and keep you in my prayers! Thanks for sharing and putting your heart out there❤️

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Thanks, Kim. I love you too.