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Grieving Losses

Loss triggers the emotional reaction known as grief. While grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one, it can occur after any loss. Grief is often discussed in terms of fixed stages, but for most people, there is not a neat, orderly progression implied by the term stages.


Rather, grief is a more individual process in which a person may experience some emotions more than once or may feel two or more at the same time. Reactions can include denial, anxiety, frustration, guilt, loneliness, depression, self-pity, feeling abandoned and a sense of failure. Working through the grief triggered by CFS and FM often takes several years. 

As descrubed on the previous page, the end point of grief is acceptance, which involves acknowledging that life has changed, realizing the need to live differently than before, and a willingness to build a new life.

Developing a self-management plan can ease the process. The use of pacing can increase control, thereby replacing uncertainty with predictability. 

Pacing strategies, such as taking regular rests, help to stabilize life with chronic illness, reducing the swings between high symptoms and times of remission. Resting ahead of an event can make it more likely you can attend, thus counteracting the sense of not being dependable.
In addition to pacing, here are eight additonal strategies for moving through grief.
1. Structure: Having daily and weekly routines provides a sense of stability and familiarity. Routine also offers a distraction from loss.
2. Problem Solving: By addressing issues using practical strategies, you remedy the circumstances that triggered the emotions. 
3. Stress Avoidance: Having to adjust to the many changes brought by illness can be traumatic. Sometimes it may be best to avoid people and situations that add more stress.
4. Support: Seek support from family, friends, and beyond. Others with CFS and FM can provide support and models of successful coping. Professional counseling can be useful.
5. Acknowledging Grief Triggers: Grief reactions are often triggered by particular circumstances, such as anniversaries or by particular people. If your emotions intensify around the anniversary of your becoming ill or on other special dates, plan something positive for those times. If some people or situations make you feel anxious and uncomfortable, consider limiting your exposure to them.
6. Acknowledging Loss: Some people report they found it useful to make a public declaration of loss. One person in the self-help program, who wrote a Christmas letter to friends to explain why they hadn’t heard from him, found that writing the letter helped him accept his limits. 

In the letter, he said, “I am sobered by the realization that it is highly unlikely that I will return to the level of functioning I had before and so will have to adjust to living a life with greater limits.” He reported that writing the letter helped him accept his limits and, paradoxically, increased his resolve to improve.
7. Recognizing Grief as Cyclical and Long-Term: You may experience several periods of grief as you move through the stages of life, for example if you remain single while friends marry or you remain childless while others become parents or if you can’t be the parent you had hoped to be or can’t have the career you trained for.
8. Addressing Self-Pity: Almost everyone with chronic illness occasionally feels sorry for themselves. Given the losses and stresses of long-term illness, it's not surprising to feel overwhelmed by emotions from time to time. If you experience self-pity, you may counteract it various ways, such as the following:. 
  1. Recognize self-pity is a part of serious illness.
    Just as symptoms wax and wane, so do emotions. Acknowledging that self-pity is happening can take some of its power away. You might say something like “Oh, there’s self-pity again.” Also, it can help to say consoling things like “I’ve felt this way before and it’s always blown over, so probably it won’t last this time either.”
  2. Rest.
    Strong emotions are sometimes triggered by fatigue and other symptoms. In those instances, rest may help alleviate both physical symptoms and emotions.
  3. Connect with others.
    Reach out via phone, email or in-person. Sometimes just being in touch can change a mood. At other times it helps to have your mood acknowledged.
  4. Help others.
    Shift your attention off yourself onto what you can do for your family, friends or others in your life.

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