This blog is from a young person’s experience with grief when it comes to illness! 

Growing up whilst experiencing a long term illness, whether it be a physical or mental illness, causes you to experience something a lot of people wouldn’t expect – grief!

How can long term illness bring you grief?

Having an illness that impacts your life at a young age can be difficult to deal with and it brings a lot of changes and challenges. It is only natural that when something impacts your life in this way that it triggers a grieving process. 

You may feel a sense of loss over the things you have missed out on or are currently missing out on due to your illness. You may feel angry that this is happening to you. You may be in denial about the fact that you have this illness and that you may have to do things differently because of it. 

You might try bargaining with yourself, for example “if I take my meds maybe I can just continue on as if nothing is wrong and I won’t need to do any other therapies or miss out on life”. You may grieve for the future or current experiences you could have had before you reach the stage of acceptance and start to think positively about the future you are going to have even if it is different to what you imagined. 

What is my experience with long term illness and grief? 

When I got ill with both physical and mental health conditions I spent a lot of time going between two stages of grief. Anger and Denial. I would be angry with my body and mind for being this way and angry that I didn’t get help earlier and was left to deteriorate. 

I would also go into a state of denial where I would pretend everything was fine and try to carry on like I did before I got ill. Ignoring my illnesses and trying to be “normal” did not help me, but accepting my new reality and learning to love myself for who I was did.

Having an illness is nothing to be ashamed of, I know there is a lot of stigma around mental health specifically but you shouldn’t feel like it is a bad thing that needs to be hidden, it may need controlling or treating but to improve you need to get to the stage of acceptance.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” - Vicki Harrison.

The quote above sums up the grieving experience perfectly for me. In my experience, grief tends to lay dormant rather than going away completely. It does get easier as time goes on because you learn better coping mechanisms and accept that your long term illnesses are a part of you.

How can you deal with grief?

In my opinion, the most important thing is to just allow yourself to go through the grieving process. Every emotion you feel is valid and how you react is valid as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or anybody else. 

The grief can come in waves, you may be feeling the sense of acceptance and moving on but then grief may suddenly hit you again, seemingly out of nowhere. This doesn’t mean you’ve regressed, this is perfectly normal in any grieving process. 

You may never get back what you’ve lost from being ill, even if it’s an illness that you fully recover from, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have more positive experiences going forward. You could even get to experience some of the things you’ve previously missed out on, just later on in life.

If you’re currently going through the stages of illness related to grief, just know that you are not alone and what you are experiencing is normal and valid. There are plenty of us out there and we can understand and support each other.