Loss is part of the human condition. It is inevitable. The loss of a loved one quickly springs to mind when I think about this topic. That particular type of loss is pure anguish. There are other types of losses that we all experience in our lives. Some of us have lost jobs. Most of us have lost material things. These types of losses are familiar to everyone. But those of us living with rheumatoid arthritis experience losses that are rarely considered by those in our world who are able bodied.
I have a friend who loves to crochet. After her RA diagnosis, she was unable to work with her hands. After a year of treatment, my friend's hands regained ability. She cannot crochet afghan patterns anymore, but she can crochet other beautiful, smaller things. She works on a project for 15 minutes at a time. I admire her determination, and her strong spirit. She did not give up.
Some of our losses are permanent. I enjoyed playing guitar for many years. I played with a group that visited the nursing homes on a regular basis. It brought me great joy to see elderly people smile and sing along with us. I also played guitar at Mass with a church friend. Those days are gone for me. I miss playing guitar. I miss it a lot. Still, I am not devastated. I was able to play guitar for many years. It was a blessing. I packed up my music and put it all in one place. I still have my guitar. I can pick it up and play a few songs, but it is not the same. But instead of dwelling on that loss, I looked for some other outlet for my creative energy. I picked up some drawing pencils and a drawing pad. Drawing was a favorite childhood pass time. I am not an artist, but drawing is fun for me. It is also a great distraction on a painful day. So while we may lose the ability to do hobbies we once took great enjoyment in, RA may give us an opportunity to pick up a new one we never expected to.
One of the worst losses we experience is the companionship of friends and family. It is difficult for us to make and keep commitments sincewe never know how we are going to feel. I do miss the days of being able to drop everything and meet a friend for lunch. That is just not possible for us. It is important for those in our social circle to understand that we are not avoiding them or their social functions. I have found that true friends and caring family members stick around. So perhaps that is the silver lining – although we may lose people who are less understanding of the struggles RA brings, we keep the people who will be there for us, no matter what.
How I cope with loss
We inevitably lose abilities and relationships that are dear to us. Loss is a tough thing. We cannot just get over it in one day. I do allow myself to grieve my losses, but only for a short while. I want to enjoy every minute of my life. I want to be happy. I make myself go out to our front porch. I gaze at the beauty of the countryside. I listen to the birds sing, and listen to my wind chimes as they turn slowing in the breeze. Then I literally count all of my blessings. There are so many!
This is the way I drag myself up from the depths of despair and hopelessness. I look around again, and I realize I am back to normal. The grass looks greener, and my wind chimes are more brightly colored. This is when I know my body and soul are ready to once again breathe in the beauty of life. I can feel warmth in my heart as I listen to the symphony of the song birds and other creatures who live in our world with us. Once again, life is good.