After a diagnosis: Why do I feel numb?

There are no safe guards in this life.

Just because someone suffers from lupus, doesn’t mean they can’t get diagnosed with appendicitis.

Last week my mum who has type 1 diabetes and multiple chronic illnesses was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

It’s not fair.

And that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be.

I’m going to try not to make this post a mere outpouring of my raw emotions, because that is neither helpful for others, nor in line with the tradition of this blog.

That said, such a diagnosis WILL impact my writing, and it’s not something I can keep quiet about. Partly because it’s real and leaking into every corner of my life, and partly because I hold out the hope that my reflections might help others going through similar trials.

At the moment I’m in the numb stage.
It sort of doesn’t seem real. How can this be happening to my own mum?
Continue reading “After a diagnosis: Why do I feel numb?”

Watchers, we are not Experts in chronic illness

“Lights on, hours before dawn.

In pain someone rolls.

It’s not me, never me,

for whom the bell tolls.”

For me, there is something clarifying in forcing my emotions to submit to the demands of rhythm and rhyme.

Happy Thursday!

Obviously it’s been a while since I posted. Lately my thoughts have not been ordered enough to sit down and blog, the reason for this being that new health problems have arisen in the lives of my Loved Ones (and hence in my life).

And so, I’ve spent some time grieving, some time trying to figure out my response, and even more time wondering what the future will look like. As of yet, I don’t have any answers, and I’m not sure when ones will be forthcoming – but this I know: my God goes on before me.

In an attempt to process this new upheaval I spent some time writing poetry. I offer this as an explanation as to why I haven’t been writing here, but also because I thought perhaps sharing some stanzas might also serve as an explanation, and even an encouragement. Is there anyone else who turns to poetry in order to order their thoughts?

Continue reading “Watchers, we are not Experts in chronic illness”

3 reasons it is good to be sad after a chronic illness diagnosis

I don’t like being sad. Do you?
Being sad means I no longer feel like laughing at someone’s joke or daydreaming in the sun.

Being sad can mean I get headaches from crying, or find it difficult to concentrate during lectures, sermons or long conversations.

And yet, the truth is, when tragedy strikes our loved ones, it can actually be helpful to be sad.

Here’s why.

3 reasons it’s good to be sad:

1. Sadness is reality

Let us not lose sight of the fact that when someone we love is suffering we ought to be sad.

It’s not merely ‘okay’ or ‘acceptable’ – but it is good.

If your heart does not break at the new distress of someone you love, something is not right.

Feeling sad means you’re human.

It means you have a living, breathing, sympathetic heart, and that is good. We were not created to be stone statues, but living people created in the likeness of a God who weeps as well as laughs.

Sadness is the right response to tragic reality. It means you see the world as it is. Life is not all happy games and hopes fulfilled. It is just as equally a dark valley and night time tears.

To see and feel sorrow when it is present is good.

Sadness is the right response to tragedy. It is part of being human – tweet!

Continue reading “3 reasons it is good to be sad after a chronic illness diagnosis”

What I learnt when I cried in church

I hesitate to share this. It’s personal. It’s ‘deep’… and this is in itself is normally an indicator that I shouldn’t post it on the World Wide Web.

We’ve looked at why it’s okay to cry in public and also how to respond. Now this is my story…

My story of public grief (and what it taught me about God and chronic illness)

I believe it’s important.

This experience was one of the times I have seen God teaching me ‘in the moment’. It was a valuable lesson – and so I share it, not for sympathy or scandal, but so you might also see the God I saw that day.

Continue reading “What I learnt when I cried in church”

How to cope with grief in a public place

What do we do when we find ourselves crying in church? – Is this a silly question? I don’t think it is.

I like practical answers.

If something uncomfortable has to happen, I want to know how I can fix it (or, preferably, avoid it).

What do I do when I find myself crying? Is this a question that needs to be answered?

I think it is.

Why?

Because weeping in public is not a common occurrence in Western culture. We generally try to avoid it – and so when we weep in public it is because we are overcome with grief. Tears take us by surprise; we are unprepared.

And personally, I’d rather not be. So let’s think about it now, before we find ourselves in that situation.

What should we do when we find ourselves overcome with emotion in public place?
Continue reading “How to cope with grief in a public place”

Why I think it’s okay to grieve in Public

Grieving in front of people is not something we’re particularly good at in my culture. Weeping often happens behind closed doors, or in the arms of a loved one.

Yet when a diagnosis of chronic illness enters our lives, or the lives of our family members, it’s impossible to avoid public places, and often just as impossible to avoid tears!

As Christians, church is a public sphere where we may find it hard to contain our grief. For this reason I’m going to use it as an example, but most of what is written below can apply to any public space.

Firstly: should we even be trying to contain our grief?

I don’t think so.

4 Reasons we grieve chronic illness in public

1. We grieve chronic illness in public because we care

Continue reading “Why I think it’s okay to grieve in Public”

What to do when chronic illness makes you angry

Perhaps your father has been diagnosed with cancer, or your mother with Alzheimer’s, and you’re angry. Angry at everyone: the doctors, yourself, the people around you, the sick person, and most of all, God.

So what do we do?

Smash a few windows? Yell? Break down into tears? What’s the appropriate response?

Is there one?

How do you cope with anger after a chronic illness diagnosis?

What happens when we’re angry at a situation but don’t want to be?

Anger is harmful

I have no “5 Step Plan” to cope with the anger associated with chronic illness. I’m going to admit that up front. But I think it’s helpful to start by admitting that anger is not the best response.

There are more helpful emotions to feel.

I think we all know that. But is anger always wrong? Surely it’s okay to be indignant at injustice, or annoyed at pain.

There’s no simple answer here, no black and white. But we need to remember that righteous or otherwise, anger can hurt people. Anger can cause us to lash out, it can ruin relationships, it can tear apart community. If not addressed will linger and fester, and it will ultimately destroy us.

We should not cultivate anger.

Continue reading “What to do when chronic illness makes you angry”

After a diagnosis: Why anger?

A chronic illness diagnosis is emotional. We may feel sad, guilty, overwhelmed… and we can feel angry. Sometimes this is short-lived, but mine wasn’t.

Why are we angry?

Coping with anger after a diagnosis is not simple

Chronic illness and suffering is a sensitive topic, so let me use another analogy.

Say I stub my toe. It hurts. It makes me angry.

Why?

Anger over chronic illness is a reaction to frustration

Continue reading “After a diagnosis: Why anger?”

Wait! I don’t know how to answer all their questions.

Answering questions about your Loved One takes a lot of getting used to.
Watching is unique in that people always have something to talk to you about.

Watching means that you, your Loved One, and their sickness, become common ground.

All of a sudden topics that under normal circumstances would require sensitivity, caution, a relationship or ‘easing into’ become a free for all.

And that’s hard to get used to. It never really becomes normal. People will always expect you to be able to answer deep, painful questions at a drop of a hat. Questions like:

How are you feeling?
Is it hard having a mum/dad/sibling/spouse/friend who is sick all the time?
How is your Loved One?
Does your Loved One get depressed?
Does your Loved One know that you find their illness hard?
Continue reading “Wait! I don’t know how to answer all their questions.”

Wait! I don’t know how to break the news.

Being told your Loved One has a chronic sickness, either physical or mental, is devastating.
Telling someone else can be even harder.

It is excruciating.

And the problem is, we all have more than one person in our lives. And so we are forced to tell the same sad story again and again.

This is not a post with a lot of answers. I’m not sure there are answers. But sometimes, empathy is enough. I pray that is the case here. For you. For me.

Sharing is complex

Every situation is different – and the truth is, we are going to have share in many situations. We all have best friends, distant friends, close family, family that live far away, colleagues, communities, church families, sport teams, school classes…. The list goes on.

Chances are, sharing with each of them will look different.

Continue reading “Wait! I don’t know how to break the news.”