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Life Redefined: Looking Back at Grieving Forward

Post Published: 29 November 2011
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Category: Column, Life Redefined, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults Column
This post currently has 18 responses. Leave a comment

A few months ago I wrote about grieving forward (you can read it here)–grieving over who we used to be pre-sickness while still moving forward with life. I feel the need to press into this a bit more because it is such a work in progress.Grieving over the loss of a loved one is an integral part in the healing process. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know this to be true. I think this is true even when the loss we’re dealing with is the loss of self. When one day we realize that some level of sickness is preventing us from being the person we once were, we are faced with devastating loss. We must grieve over that loss so that we can heal and move on with new life.

But what if we don’t like our new life? What if we don’t like the body that disease has left us with? Chances are, most all of us don’t like everything about the body we’re now living in. So how do we possibly go forward with life? How do we get out of bed every day and not become consumed with who we used to be?

I don’t have a checklist for you to follow. I don’t have a twelve step program to share. I can’t give you a licensed counselor’s response because I’m certainly not qualified to do so. What I can do is tell you what has worked for me.

Change is so often extremely painful. The summer before I started eighth grade, my family moved to a different state. The pain this change brought was brutal. Making new friends, starting a new school, living in a new neighborhood–all of this was so very daunting. All I wanted to do was to go BACK to my old friends and my old school and my old neighborhood. But that wasn’t an option. I had a choice: I could try to accept the change and seek happiness, or I could resist the change and dwell in aloneness. I know that a 13 year old eighth grader tends to make problems seem much bigger than they actually are, but isn’t that the same choice we face even now when we deal with change? We can either find a way to accept it or we can resist it.

In the process of grieving over my old self after my cancer diagnosis, I made the choice to accept the change and pursue happiness. I had to accept that life will never be the same as it was pre-diagnosis because I tried resisting that change and it did not lead to true life. It led to an overwhelming feeling of isolation. I felt cut off from the world. So I started the acceptance process by finding just one thing that I liked about myself. Just one. That’s what it took to start the forward progress. Then I found another thing to like about myself. And another. And another. And eventually, the good overshadowed the bad. Simultaneously, I tried to accept that most people I interact with on a daily basis are not going to understand what I’m going through. And you know what, I learned that IT IS OKAY to not be completely understood. I don’t understand exactly what they’re going through in their current phase of life, either. I’m learning that just because my friends and family don’t always get what I’m dealing with, that doesn’t mean I have to cut myself off from them. I am still their friend, daughter, and sister and there is still common ground to walk on and live life together.  Please understand, though, that this entire process of moving forward took a LONG time. Months and months. It definitely wasn’t an overnight shift for me and it likely won’t be for you, either. If you don’t think there is anything likable about your current self, I urge you to DIG DEEPER. Is it painful? Yes. Is your life worth the pain? Absolutely.

This is a three steps forward, two steps back kind of thing. Not every day is going to be perfect. Actually, no day will be perfect. When you make the decision to start grieving forward, know that not every day is going to be good. Know that you will still have hard days. The process is long and painful, but by making that decision to move forward, I truly believe you will find more life and love. I know I did.

What are your thoughts on grieving forward? Is it something you need to do? Are you already doing it? If so, what works for you? If not, why not? I want to hear your thoughts on this tough process!

xo,
Joanna

 

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18 Responses to “Life Redefined: Looking Back at Grieving Forward”

  1. Sue says:

    I absolutely loved this! You have an amazing attitude and perspective. I am learning to love the new life and life in the body. It will happen, going a few steps forward and then some backward. it is ever so nice to know there are others on the same path! Thank you & best wishes to you! Sue

  2. Jauhara says:

    Thanks so much for this great article and the previous one as well. It touched my heart deeply. “Grieving forward”, as you so appropriately name it, is such an important thing that we must all do no matter what the circumstances, whether it be a physical, emotional or even spiritual situation. May we all move forward with such grace and compassion towards ourselves!

    • Jauhara, I completely agree with you–grieving forward does not just apply to just moving forward with a physical illness. Grief is something that we deal with in so many areas of life and learning to grieve forward is a lesson we can carry with us forever. Thank you for commenting and sharing!

  3. Anna says:

    Thank you Joanna. Grieving forward is extremely difficult…two steps forward, one back. It is difficult and frustrating but you’re right, we must choose to accept and pursue happiness. Beautifully written…

    xo
    Anna

  4. Lolly says:

    Joanna Beautifully written x

  5. Joanne Naso says:

    Thank you for writing this. My recent mantra is “perspective” . . . . trying to maintain it is not always easy, but it gives me a place to go to when things feel overwhelming.

  6. Melissa Travis says:

    I want to kick and scream right now. I guess this is also part of grieving forward.

    Beautiful. Truly. Thank you for writing this.
    x

    • Several months ago I wrote in my journal, “I don’t have to climb Mt. Everest; some days, just getting out of bed is enough.” Maybe kicking and screaming is sufficient for you today. I think sometimes that is quite cathartic. xxoo

  7. Christy says:

    I am wondering what if you are stuck? I have already been through the grieving of my body after a car accident left me paralyzed. I came through. I made great things with my life. 6 years later and I am drowning due to this thyroid. My boyfriend who I truly love and began building a life around can not take my unexplained depression and outbursts. I feel I have been left with nothing. I now mourn my body, my sanity and my relationshiop. It is too much and I am not sure I can hold on.

    • Christy, I agree with Lolly so very much. You are not alone here. We don’t know exactly what you’re going through and feeling, but so many of us have had to face hardship and we know how difficult and painful it is to feel STUCK. We are here to help pull you forward. No, it’s not going to be so easy and it’s not going to be pain free, but we will help you find a way to truly live.

      I completely identify with the feelings of depression. I found myself in a similar situation a few months after my cancer diagnosis. I realized I couldn’t handle it on my own so I talked to my doctor about it and we decided to try an antidepressant. It worked wonders for me. Not to say that is the right answer for you, but I encourage you to talk to your doctor about it. If your doctor won’t listen, find another doctor. Here’s an article I wrote about depression: http://dearthyroid.org/life-redefined-the-elephant-in-the-room/

      I’ll find a letter for you that you can share with your boyfriend.

  8. Lolly says:

    Christy,

    I really felt what you wrote and right now things may look bleak but they will get better. You did it before you can do it again with the right support and doctors that get your thyroid levels back to where they should be.I think most of us here can say we have been in that place you are at now one time or another and you know we pulled ourselves out. It’s your thyroid making you this way go kick it’s butt and don’t let it beat ya..

    We are here to help and support each other..Some of the Thyrella’s and fellas are going through cancer and kicking ass doesn’t mean to say they are not scared don’t know what the future may hold but you know what don’t kill ya makes you stronger because you got everything too fight and live for. Talk to your boyfriend tell him it’s not you but the damn thyroid making you like that, somehere there is a letter to relatives I am sure someone can find it for you get him to read that..But don’t give up be strong as I can already see you are strong you picked yourself up after being paralysed.

    Lollyx

  9. Christy says:

    Thank you for your replies. I have talked to him, he is just unsure he can take anymore or take something like that forever. I can’t blame him, I’d leave me too if I could. I would like to find that letter, but I have been unable to find it with the search. I just found a place for family to submit. Is there a place on here just to ask questions or get feedback that I am missing?

  10. Emily says:

    Joanna,
    Reading this literally brought tears to my eyes, knowing that there is hope, and that there are people out there like you that offer their stories to provide that hope for us. I always tell myself I’m going to do better next time or that one day everything will be back to normal again, but the harsh reality of it all is that nothing will ever be normal again. We have to fight for our NEW normal! And just because everyone doesn’t completely understand us at times, should not be a reason to give up, and that’s what I have been doing. THANK YOU so very much for your encouraging words!
    Xs and Os
    Emily

    P.S. – I just found this website today, and I am so excited that i did! I know now that I am NOT alone! Cheers to all of our NEW normals! 🙂

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