Coping with Grief From a Chronic Illness

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • In Part I of this blog, I wrote about why you may be experiencing feelings of grief if you are caring for a baby or child with a chronic illness, such as reflux. In Part II, I wanted to provide you with some information that may help you if you do find yourself grieving.

    First, I hope that you can remember that grief is a natural process. Everyone who lives long enough to really experience the cycles of our lives will experience grief at some point.

    Secondly, grief, like chronic illness, can be an on-going, continually-shifting process in which different people experience different emotions. Don’t be surprised if the grief you are feeling seems different from what your spouse is experiencing. And, don’t be surprised if it waxes and wanes. At first, there may be no way to know the full impact or implications of your child’s illness. Sometimes, each new season, or stage of your child’s development will bring new challenges and realizations about what you are facing (for example, those food-filled holidays just keep rolling at us). Without knowing all of the implications of your child’s diagnosis, how can grief happen all at once?
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    Thirdly, sharing and support can help. You’ll find that there are some folks who can relate to what you are feeling better than others. Seek them out. You may start with a reflux support group, or someone in your circle of friends who has cared for someone with a chronic illness. I have found that sharing the insanity of the situation with others who can relate makes me feel much more sane.

    With experience in your caregiving role I hope you will tend to dwell less and less on the implications of your child’s illness, and focus more and more on the good times. Of course, all of this will follow your recognition of the need to grieve, as well as a redefinition of the “normal” you had in mind for your family.

    A friend of mine who has experienced a major loss said this about grief: “You can’t be afraid of your emotions. In fact, you have to let the sadness come out, so the good feelings can come back in.”
Published On: December 20, 2006