Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Grieving and Diabetes

Grief is a very normal process that everyone goes though at some time in his or her life. People grieve after they experience the loss of a person close to them. Sometimes it is after the loss of a home in a disaster. Some people experience grief after a life altering event.
Illness is also a time when people experience grief. I've often heard about people going through the stages of grief after being diagnosed with cancer or some other life altering illness, whether it be terminal or not.
Being diagnosed as a very young child, I don't believe I experience the stages of grief in connection with my diabetes until I was much older. In fact, it was after I got out of college and got my first job that I really felt like I dealt with my grief with my diabetes.
I have noted before that I remember very little of my life before diabetes. I was only 4 when I was diagnosed, so in most ways, diabetes has just always been. It's always been present. It's always been a part of my life. And diabetes has always been in my mind, my life, and almost every aspect of my life.
Until I was out of college, I don't ever remember being mad about having diabetes. I had times when it annoyed me, sure. But I don't ever remember that anger that is deep and hot and burns you on the inside. When I got my first job I realized, in many ways, how far reaching my diabetes truly is.
Every job I ever take has to have health insurance considered. I will most likely never be a stay-at-home mom, or have the job I have always wanted (to own a day care center). I will always have to interview my employers about their health coverage and their policy on sick days, eating while at work, and taking necessary breaks.
When I realized this late in 2004, it made me very sad and very very angry. I always knew these things, but the reality of them hit me very hard during this time in my life. By early 2005 I knew I was going to loose my job teaching (my contract wasn't renewed). I couldn't work in child care anymore because most child care centers are individually owned and do not offer health insurance.
During this time I was also trying to take the driver's seat as far as my diabetes control was concerned. I had ignored it or just done what was absolutely necessary for far too long and I knew I hate to start doing everything I could to ward off the effects of many years of living with diabetes.
The stress of it was nearly more than I could handle. During this time I had great friends who helped me out. One friend in particular listened to me as I cried and wondered "Why me?". She supported me and loved me and gave me some great advise during this time in my life. **side note: this was way before I discovered the online world of the diabetes OC**
After some soul searching and some poetry writing (what I tend to do when stressed out) and many pity parties for myself, I took control of myself and my diabetes and began to deal with what life had handed me some 20 years earlier. A couple of years later I discovered the diabetes OC and websites like TuDiabetes.com that helped me connect with other people and helped me find ways to emotionally deal with the stresses of diabetes.
I wonder what my life would have been like had I been diagnosed later in life. At 12, or 17, or 21. Would the grieving process have happened earlier? Later? I'm not sure.
I'd really like to hear from others and when and how they dealt with the grieving process of having diabetes. I know there are others who have gone through similar situations and I would like to know how it effected you.


Scott K. Johnson said...

Hey Cara,

I too was diagnosed young (age 5). I don't feel that I've fully dealt with the grieving yet, and it's been 28 years! I deal with little pieces of it as my life and self exploration pull them out, but I imagine that I will continue to work through the process of grieving for most of my life.

How can a small child deal with something with such gravity?

I also feel like it can come and go in cycles. That I work through one segment of grief, then a bit later in life another piece pops up that needs to be dealt with.

It's a process.

Good topic - thanks for talking about it!

Donna said...

Cara - I was diagnosed at age 7 and I don't think I've actually gone through a grieving process - yet. I've been through several "feel sorry for me" stages. But I've not really grieved.

I've been fortunate in that I've been able to work for the same company for almost 27 years. So I always have continuous insurance coverage. I'm very fortunate there. I would definitely grieve if I ever lost that health insurance. I guess I've taken that for granted. I shouldn't do that & should remember to truly appreciate the fact that I do have health insurance.

Not much help here today, am I? I think we're both in the same boat. When we're diagnosed as a child, I think it affects us differently than it does to people who are diagnosed later. Maybe the problem is that since we don't remember much before our diagnosis, then we don't know what we're grieving about. Kind of a weird feeling, isn't it?

Lynnea said...

Wow!! I can't believe you wrote about this. It's been on my mind a lot lately....the grieving process.

When the docs and nurses in the hospital, then another type1 parent mentioned the grieving process I didn't understand why. I didn't understand that I WOULD grieve. I thought grieving was only for people that died, not people that are living.

I am still grieving....but it's hard to let people know that because I don't think they would understand.(I suppose I should just blog about it and let the chips fall where they may!!)

Your post made me think about my son, and what he will deal with emotionally down the road. He's too young now...he's just livin' life....and that's a good thing!!:-) I'll bear the burdens for now, but one day it will hit him....maybe like Scott said, just little bits at a time.

Sorry for the long comment!! The crying was cleansing!!:-)

Penny Ratzlaff said...


My son was diagnosed when he was 3. I have been through the stages of grief many times since his diagnosis.

The problem with this disease is that it's always there. Just when you think you're OK something will happen to remind you that you're not.

The good thing is knowing that while I'm in the midst of one of the stages of grief I know that it will pass and that life will go on.

(((hugs))) to you.

Minnesota Nice said...

Great writing, Cara.
I was diagnosed as a teenager so I had some freewheelin' years under my belt. I was furious, plus had the experience of seeing a bunch of relatives die from type 1. But I felt I had to put on a brave front for my parents. I knew how upset they were and didn't want them to be further disturbed by seeing me upset. So, I pranced through my days with a big smile plastered on my face, and when I got to college sunk deeper and deeper into total denial. And, denial is a stage of the grieving process - I just got stuck in it for several years.
I think it was my retinopathy scare, followed by successful healing, that pulled me through to a place of respect for the condition and gratitude for the health that I have - maybe I can term that "acceptance".
There will always be reminders that I am not a "normal" person, but, they pass. If I want to feel sad, that's ok. I just try to remember to move on.

k2 said...

Cara -
Great JOb! Grieving, i don't know if I've done it for my diabetes yet.
I rarely think about the whole "what if I didn't have it" question, because l barely remember life with a working pancreas.
My grief happens in bits and pieces. I grieved (and still grieve)for my sister and all she went through. What happened to her affects me to this day.
I grieve for my parents, and what D, has put them through. Every D kid (grown up or not) knows what I'm talking about it. To see such hurt in our parents eyes and hearts because of our faulty pancreas hurts much more than the needles ever could.

Like Scotty J said, it's a process.

~Suzanne~ said...

Hi Cara
I am a tad late on this one! I don't know how I missed it!!

I didn't grieve when I was diagnosed at 9, because I don't think I understood what was really wrong. I remember the doctor telling us and my Mom started crying. My older brother passed away 4 years earlier from Leukemia, so I didn't know if that was what I had, too. I just remember having to be strong for my mom, as she grieved.

I think I grieved plenty through the past 15 years or so when I was denying my care, it came in very powerful waves. But I think I still grieve, I think I did a little last night when I was so frustrated that I can't just get this stuff right!!

Like the others have said, I believe it really is a process, and it might be one that just never ends (until that cure of course!!)

The good news is that this community is here for you when you do grieve, each and every time! =:~)