Life Redefined: Looking Back at Grieving Forward
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!
Tags: coping with loss of self, finding a new sense of self, Grieving Forward, Life Redefined: Looking Back at Grieving Forward, living with cancer, thyroid cancer, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults, Thyroid Cancer Survivor, Written by Joanna Isbill