There are the five stages that Dr. Elizabeth Kübler Ross already described:
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. These stages pertain to the present.
Others are Stocktaking, Adopting, and Adapting, which concern the future.
Personally, I went straight to ACCEPTANCE. As I started to make sense of the world around me, there was no denying that something major had gone wrong. Later, at home, I did my STOCKTAKING. Not on purpose. Nobody told me to. It was more a question of finding out what didn’t work any longer, and what still did. This is also something that can go on for years, as a person not always monitors their behavior, nor remembers in detail everything that was accomplished effortlessly in the past.
At the time I got angry, of course. Not aggressive. Not ANGER as we know it, but more frustration, or the increasing realization of my diminished capabilities. All part of admitting to yourself that something out off your control, something you didn’t like, has happened. If you want to have control of your life back, you better move on and admit your new situation to yourself – ADOPT it.
Not ADOPTING the disability also means not owning it. To move on, people have to own their disability. Admitting shortcomings. Accepting help. Preparing to be the elephant in the room.
Around the same time people start ADAPTING to the new situation. They might not be able to do things the way they did them before fate changed their life, but they still manage to achieve satisfactory outcomes.
So, there you have it: DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, DEPRESSION, ACCEPTANCE, STOCKTAKING, ADOPTING, ADAPTING. What seems important to mention here is that not only ‘patients’ should go, and will go through these stages, but also their partners. For example, if a patient has lost friends, his/her spouse/partner will be affected as well. They have to re-organize their social life, go out there and make new friends rather than letting the disability dominate their life. It is very tempting to isolate oneself.
I have long argued that a life-changing event affects the entire family. Interestingly enough, in Drug and Alcohol Counseling the spouse/partner is called co-dependant. In most countries, however, we don’t give family members of a disabled person the same status – they are just non-paid family caregivers. Why?
No one person is ever grieving alone. Nor should they. Not everyone goes through all the stages, but we should always try to go through them together – talk about it!
Please share this post as often as possible. It is important for everyone who has had a life-changing experience.