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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Multiple Sclerosis Grief: Ghosts of a Past Life

Sometimes, my pre-diagnosis life seems like a haunting memory.

The ghosts of my previous life dance in my memory, like objects in the distance on a foggy night. Flashes of images spin through my mind, dancing, laughing, running marathons, dreaming of a life that was not destined to be.

I imagine myself as so many things, a dancer, a gymnast, a marathoner. These are all things I once loved and longed to do with my life, things I had to let go of. I long for that care-free former self,  the one who thought I was untouchable and life was easy. Isn't it interesting how we design a life for ourselves in our minds, but this life is never an exact replica of that imagined existence. We are all challenged to accept the life we have rather than the life we think we want.

The process of letting go of our former selves is a long and difficult one. This process is much like grieving, with distinct stages. I believe we need to allow ourselves time to grieve the loss of the person we always thought we would be. After all, this is a great loss. We lose our identities, and we naturally need to recover from that loss.

Grief stages are described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross as: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. In her model, Kubler-Ross describes each of these stages as distinct. Each stage can last for days, weeks, months, or even years. I can say that I have felt definite denial and anger stages in my 5 years with MS. Acceptance: I am not there yet. I am working on it, but I am not there. What we should do, however, is allow ourselves time to pass through each phase on our own terms. No one should ever tell you that you should be "over it" by now. It is no one else's decision or process, it is yours.

Everyone has challenges that are unique. Some are struggling with financial troubles and poverty, some are consumed with emotional and psychological difficulties, and others are fighting physical ailments such as MS. Though these issues may vary from person to person, we are all connected as human beings through these life battles.

I just want you to know, that if you have days when you feel the need to process your grief, do not feel guilty. You may have days where you don't want to be cheered up, told to "stay strong" and fight. Some days are made for fighting, some are made for processing your grief. It is normal and healthy to do so.

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