Facing Denial? The 5 Stages of Grief?

It seems like such a very strange thing to be looking at. I was diagnosed in April of 1980.

How can one not have completely accepted diabetes after so many years? How can that be? Is it even possible?

But it seems that, yes, it is possible.

I had another very good appointment with my therapist last week. It turns out that there are many types of denial. There are physical types where you don’t test or take your insulin. I’m not there. I do all the testing, and I take my meds.

Then there is emotional denial – as Carol said in my post about nutritional counseling, maybe the diet thing is a “last bastion of rebellion against DM” for me, also as Theresa has commented a few times in various posts here and there.

I think there may be something there.

The nasty thing about denial of any sort is, well, denial! I mean, by its very nature, it is something that you do not want to look at, at all.

My assignment for this month is to write a letter to my diabetes. I’m finding that particularly hard to wrap my head around. It sounds very “silly” to me at first, but then couldn’t that be denial weaseling its claws into me again?? I’m sure that I will come up with any and every manner of excuses not to do it – and that is for sure denial. But I am committed to working through those excuses and will do it. I hope that I can be honest with myself about how I really feel and not doctor the letter up just because I know she’ll be reading it.

According to her, it all centers on grief. Grief is described in this case as “a loss of normalcy.”

A loss of normalcy.

Man – that says a lot doesn’t it?

But what is “normalcy”? If I’ve been diabetic for so long, isn’t that “normal”? Or do I see that others don’t have to check their blood sugars, deal with highs or lows, eat without counting (for the most part), worry about complications, or feel guilty about not controlling their blood sugars?

But under the surface, I do know that I have to deal with more than the rest of the people I’m around most of the time.

I was talking with my wife about this. The whole “denial” thing seems strange to both of us because I do check, I do count (most of the time), and I do take my meds. But, it appears that this is a different form of denial. I love different forms of things. Makes them a real bugger to figure out. Damn.

I also think that it might be something to do with the (new to me) five stages of grief. These stages would be (according to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross) :

grief1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

I’ve not heard of these stages, nor really any information about dealing with grief and its relation to diabetes.

Is it possible to get stuck in one of these stages for an extended period of time? Or perhaps a cycle between a few, just back and forth and back and forth? My therapist also says that once you reach acceptance, that you don’t necessarily stay there – it’s not like a “to-do” list, where you check off each stage as you “accomplish” it. Rather you may spend a period of time in acceptance, and something comes along that ticks you off, and you slide into anger for a bit. That thought disturbed me a bit, though I can understand it.

I also don’t know if you go through these stages in the order listed either.

If I had to decide which stage I’m in right now, I would say it would be bargaining. You know, like I’ll eat this or that just one more time, then I’ll be “good.” Even when I know the impact on my blood sugar will not be good. But I do it anyway. Why? I don’t understand the things I do much of the time.

I really think that this journey through grief and denial will be very beneficial for me, but also very difficult to deal with.

What information do you folks have on the five stages of grief or dealing with denial in terms of diabetes? Have any of you gone through this stuff? And how the hell can I have lived for so long with diabetes and never dealt with my feelings of grief?? I just don’t get it.

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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