Mental Health Impacts: Grief
Last updated: October 2021
It is no secret that a diagnosis of macular degeneration causes some really difficult feelings. How can it not?
It isn’t always easy to know what’s happening to us emotionally soon after diagnosis. But, over time we may learn that our painful feelings are often more than just temporary shock. The emotional aspect of a diagnosis of macular degeneration is just as important as the diagnosis itself.
The hard truth
As stated in the first two articles of this three-part series, the big emotions that accompany macular degeneration demand acknowledgment and discussion, no matter how difficult it may seem. It’s the HARD truth that battling extreme vision loss and fear and uncertainty of the future goes hand in hand with some uncharted feelings of depression, anxiety, and grief.
In this article series, I am discussing each of these three probable and diagnosable components of macular degeneration. Though in this article I will focus the discussion on grief, it’s important to remember that these feelings are not always isolated as one or the other. They are often experienced together and threaten to take away our ability to continue living fully and joyfully despite our diagnosis.
What is grief?
The Mayo Clinic defines grief as, “A strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.” Grief is a natural reaction to any form of loss.1
People experiencing grief may have the following symptoms:1
- Feeling numb and removed from daily life
- Feeling sad, lost, angry, worried, depressed and/or anxious due to a sense of loss (again, these feelings often go hand-in-hand)
- Inability to carry on with regular duties because of a sense of loss
Why can macular degeneration cause grief?
Many people associate grief with the loss of a loved one. Though that is one common and very difficult form of grief, it isn’t the only one. When diagnosed with a life-changing disease like macular degeneration, we suddenly begin to grieve the lives we thought we’d have before macular degeneration.
With everything that accompanies extreme vision loss (or the threat of it), we cannot help but feel sad, lost, angry, worried, depressed, or anxious. I left grief for the last part of this three-part article series on the mental health aspects of macular degeneration because, to me, it seems like the one that is all-encompassing.
What can I do about it?
Though we are powerless over our diagnosis of macular degeneration, we are not hopeless or helpless. There are so many things we CAN do for ourselves to keep our mental health in good, working condition.
In an article I wrote about grief titled You’re Not Dying and You Don’t Have Cancer. Why Are You So Sad? I discussed the importance of making lemonade out of life’s lemons:
go about moving forward with our grief is up to each of us individually. For me, personally, I do a few things daily that I’ve found helpful. I give myself permission to feel what I’m feeling and I intentionally try to seek joy in everything I do. This helps me take care of my emotional health. I focus on living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, helping me take care of my physical health. And, I research and give knowledge to others in an attempt to make lemonade out of some really sour lemons.
Be open to discussion
As stated in the first two parts of this article series, simply talking about our difficult feelings and being vulnerable with each other is so helpful and important when working through our diagnosis.
This is one very big benefit of being a part of our amazing MacularDegeneration.net community! Here, we understand each other because we all have similar emotional and physical experiences with this disease. You’re in the right place!
Seek professional help
If your feelings of grief become too difficult to manage on your own, it is more than okay to seek professional help. I am a huge advocate for therapy and like to think of it no differently than seeking help from a doctor that can help cure a broken bone or infection.
I sincerely hope that this article series has been beneficial to anyone struggling through the difficult emotions of their diagnosis. Taking care of our mental health is such an important part of healing and living our best lives no matter what happens to us. Focusing on our mental health not a sign of weakness or instability. It is a beautiful gift that we can give ourselves for a more peaceful and joyful life and is a sign of pure strength.
This too shall pass,
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