The stages of grief, as described by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross are:
- Example – “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening.”‘Not to me!”
- Example – “Why me? It’s not fair!” “NO! NO! How can you accept this!”
- Example – “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything, can’t you stretch it out? A few more years.”
- Example – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die . . . What’s the point?”
- Example – “It’s going to be OK.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
On sunny afternoons and rainy mornings, on walks with the dogs and alone
in the midst of dark nights, I have worked my way through the first four stages of grief since the first symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis began hampering me in March. It’s hard to believe you can be in denial when your knees and shoulders feel approximately as if sharp knives are being driven into them, but some of us are more stubborn than others.
There has been anger (mostly turned inward, because that’s my favorite flavor) and bargaining (sure, I can still do a new church start, after all you set your own schedule!), and a whopping portion of depression that we just won’t talk about, if you don’t mind.
In many ways, today, the first day since May that I am flying without the oxygen mask of prednisone, is the first day of the rest of my life. I woke up realizing that unless I am one of the lucky ones who experiences a remission via medication or inexplicable good fortune, I’m likely to spend some time every day of my forever recognizing and adjusting to my symptoms.
Welcome to chronic illness.
Over the weekend I received the gift of a long conversation with a church member who lives with RA, whose illness has been both acute and chronic since her 20s. I heard her reassurances that with all the new medications, my story WILL NOT be like hers. I listened to her urging that I take all the medical profession can make available and also heard her testimony that certain things, diet and exercise in particular, matter a lot, but will not be of great interest to doctors.
We talked about our feet, and what kind of shoes we can and cannot wear.
And I believe that’s when I made the move. I began to recognize what sort of practical, long-term adaptations will be required of me (barring the possibilities of luck), and I Googled a few things, and found a blog that reviews shoes with appropriate support and roomy toe boxes, among other things, and I saw footwear that was not up to Peace Bang’s standards, but that I thought could be cute on my relatively small feet.
I’m grateful to the people who have been praying for me over the past six months. I hope they will keep praying for me. Having direct conversation with God about this new development in my life has been difficult. If you’re in Denial, you’re not talking about it. If you’re angry, well, I’m far too gently raised to get angry with God, despite advice in the past that God is big enough to take it. Bargaining meant trying to work it out for myself moreso than taking it to the Deity, though I found one brief shining moment of comfort in that phase.
Really, I had to get to Depression before I felt able to pray much, and at that point, I felt too miserable to be articulate. Coming from a tradition that eschews pre-programmed prayers, I had few resources. My mother loved the Unity Church’s prayer, “God is my help in every need…” It carried her through illness. But I found myself awake in the night summoning up the words of the Serenity Prayer. As an OA dropout I never learned it, really. But it’s out there in the ether, and in the dark of one of my worst nights, I prayed those words.
- God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
- courage to change the things I can,
- and the wisdom to know the difference.
The night I murmured these words over and over marked the first peek around the corner to Acceptance. And looking at shoes feels like taking the first step into that new and unknown Land of Roomy Toe Boxes.