Take Time to Grieve Your Vision Loss
Visual impairments are not easy to accept. Grieving isn’t only about missing someone or a pet that has died. It can also apply to many other meaningful losses when you have to let go or say “good-bye.” It is never easy.
Unexpected feelings of grief
A good case in point is the pandemic that has lingered far longer than anyone expected and created not only isolation, but far fewer social opportunities and interactions. Many sense a deep sadness, loneliness, and longing for things to be different. These are very similar feelings for anyone grieving the death of a loved one. There was a genuine loss of freedom for most during the pandemic. In actuality, many of us went through a grieving process. Grieving is a natural process that can be applied in many ways to different situations, including vision loss.
Progression of macular degeneration
Recently a friend with wet macular degeneration called in a panic about failing to pass her eye exam at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s something we dread to hear.
What will we do if we can no longer drive? How can we remain independent? Sadly, each states’ laws are different so there’s no one uniform criteria to expect. It depends on where we live and how progressive they are in allowing driving privileges under certain conditions, such as daylight driving only.
I could feel her anxiety because I know how strong my fear is of that day I’m told I can no longer drive. This is a critical point when we can help each other, with empathy and understanding. The more we know and understand about this grieving process, the better we can help others AND ourselves.
Stages of grief
Renowned author of the book “On Death & Dying,” Elizabeth Kugler-Ross explains the different stages of grief people go through. Everyone does it in their own unique way at their pace but most follow this sequence - DABDA:
Look back at when you heard the news that you had macular degeneration, learned there is no cure and that you may lose all your central vision. Then look at these five steps of the grieving process. Do you see any correlation? I know I do!
At first, I was not experiencing many symptoms so I denied the seriousness and was a little flippant about the whole thing. When my symptoms got worse, I began arguing and bargaining about whether or not it could be cured. This is a dangerous stage when vulnerable people latch onto false hope and are scammed with promises of a “cure.” Once I educated myself and understood the reality, I became depressed, which was when I sought professional counseling. Finally, today, I have accepted my loss and have found meaningful ways to contribute, with purpose to my life with macular degeneration. I may have macular degeneration but it does not have me!
Anxiety, Anger & Fear After a Loss Can Be Signs of Grieving
How do you know if you are grieving? Look honestly at the five stages above and ask yourself if and when you experienced any of these feelings in connection with your vision loss. It’s very likely you felt at least one, if not all five of these stages.
If you are feeling anxious, angry, or fearful, it may be unresolved issues about your vision challenges. You may be able to work them out yourself or, like me, you may need professional help in identifying the difficulty. It’s strange how understanding what’s happening and knowing the different stages provides some relief. Knowledge truly is powerful.
You are not alone
You do not have to grieve alone. In fact, the maculardegeneration.net site is the perfect place to learn and get the support you need from others who understand.
Communicating our feelings about vision loss is valuable and helps us all evolve. For me, this community has been an important part of my acceptance. In summary, there are no set rules - each grieving process is unique. However, being informed and understanding how to navigate the grieving stages by sharing with others on the same journey is far less painful and more expedient than going it alone.
We are here for each other! Please feel free to share your grieving process in the “Comments” below. It may help someone else!
How many eye specialists have you gotten opinions from?