Coping with and Taking Control of IBD

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • In Part I of this SharePost, I explained that if you or someone you love has just been diagnosed with IBD, you may be experiencing grief and may not even know it. In this SharePost, I provide information about how grief varies from person to person, and I also provide suggestions for different ways to manage this emotion.


    Grief does not happen the same way for each person. Some will try to simplify grief into different stages. However, I disagree with this oversimplification. Grief is a complex emotional process that will be experienced differently by different people. Even if each of us experienced emotions in the same way and at the same pace (which we do not), our grief would still be very personal. Each of us have different work and life responsibilities, and each of us plays a variety of roles even within the same relationships. Therefore, a diagnosis of a chronic illness such as IBD can have a different meaning for each of us, depending on what we will have to change or give up in our life as a result of the diagnosis. I offer this information to you as a caution when helpful loved ones suggest, "You should be over this already" or "You should have reached the acceptance stage by now." In real life, grief does not occur in neatly organized stages over a specific period of time.

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    The following is a list of things to try if you suspect you may be grieving as a result of a diagnosis of IBD.


    1) Let yourself grieve. It's not only real, but a natural and often necessary part of handling loss. A friend of mine who lost her husband in a biking accident said it best: "You have to let the bad feelings come out so the good feelings can come back in."


    2) Try to avoid major decisions when you are in the middle of a grief "flareup."
    There is definitely a cognitive component of grief. Two years ago, my best girlfriend died of breast cancer. I distinctly remember, just after her death, not being able to figure out which buttons on the car door went with which car windows. I am thankful I was surrounded by good friends who didn't let me make any major life decisions for awhile.


    3) Talk to your healthcare provider. You may be surprised. Grief may be a topic he or she is very comfortable with and knowledgeable about. If grief is a topic he or she is comfortable discussing, it will become quickly obvious. If this is not the case, don't despair. See recommendations 4 through 6!


    4) Talk to someone else who understands grief. Many mental health care professionals are well-versed in the complexities of grief. I have also found Hospice-folks to be incredibly knowledgeable about how real people experience real loss.


    5) Look for individuals who have successfully endured major losses in their lives. In order for them to be able to relate to you, their losses do not need to be disease-related. While each major life loss is unique, there can be a lot of commonalities. Individuals who have already endured major losses may not have a single recipe for managing loss, but they will be able to give you coping strategies which they found helpful.


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    6) Seek out a grief support group. Your local Hospice chapter, or local hospital may have suggestions of support groups in your area for individuals who are grieving. I understand you may not feel you have the time or patience for one more meeting or one more appointment, but one or two meetings with someone or a group may provide you with the tools you need to help you during the most difficult times.

Published On: July 16, 2008