This is not a short article but the information in vision loss and the grieving process is incredibly important for you to read if you are suffering from vision loss or any major loss.
Are you feeling frightened or overwhelmed by a recent diagnosis of vision loss? Finding it all too much to accept and process your difficulties? Struggling to adjust to the frustration and stresses brought on by your condition?
This is very normal. Dealing with sight loss tends to be similar to the reaction to bereavement in fact you follow the same process. When newly diagnosed with vision loss, there are specific stages you will go through while processing the multitude of psychological effects associated to your situation.
It’s important to know that it’s OK to feel like you will since this process is necessary to enable you to adjust to your loss, adapting from the life you had to the life you have now.
Our mindset and emotional state play a major part in how we deal with any losses that come our way. When I first faced up to vision loss in one of my eyes in 2009 following a retinal detachment I found it very hard to accept. All my life up to this point both my eyes had worked now the situation had begun to change dramatically. There were so many things I was finding I couldn’t do. As I was discovering more of the things I couldn’t do my frustrations kept building and my reactions worsened. At the time I had no idea that I was going through what is called the grieving process.
By the time of my 2nd retinal detachment in November 2014 following my 3rd operation and confirmation that the vision loss in my right eye was irreparable I understood the grieving process I found myself going through again. Yet I was going through the process this time much faster. The speed of this was helped undoubtedly by the fact I had been through it all before and knew what to expect.
It didn’t make the month where I went through the grieving process any easier. The Doctors words are imprinted on my mind for ever, ‘for the last 50 years you have had two eyes, now you have to get used to just having one.’ My reactions to these words were to say the least rather negative, in fact I felt myself sink in to the chair and all my positive energy leave my body. My response to being diagnosed with sight loss compared to facing bankruptcy, losing my home through repossession, facing up to the death of my mother, all the losses I’d experienced before. I was devastated. But this time around I went through the process in almost exactly a month. The operation took place on the 25th November and I felt the surge of acceptance and reawakening to my possibilities on the 26th December. First time around I was lost for almost 18 months, stuck going slowly through the process.
You Go Through a Process
Each person’s reaction to the vision loss is going to be traumatic. For most people it is devastating news, emotionally distressing and takes them time to adapt, initially they’re struck down by the belief that they have no hope of leading an active, independent life from now on.
Their emotional reactions resemble those that people encounter when grieving because of significant loss, like death. All major loss I assure you will take you through this process.
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. significant loss challenges us to find ways of coping with the changes that loss brings.
Grieving takes time
Whenever you lose something you feel it like a body blow. It’s gone forever, and you can’t handle the loss. Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many dynamics, such as your personality life experiences, your resilience, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Recovery happens slowly; it can take a few months or even a few years. Yet I believe that by knowing the process you are going through helps you to work your way through it much faster.
It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and start to move forward. That’s the key, to go through the process and then move forward once you’ve gone through all the stages. The reason for me providing you the knowledge is to help you get started on your journey forward far quicker.
Your grieving process is to try to make sense of what has happened while learning to live your life without whatever it is you’ve lost.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the reaction and adjustment needed to adapt to the loss and change. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone that is important to you is taken away. Any loss can cause grief, including:
Divorce or relationship breakup
Loss of health
Losing a job
Loss of financial stability
Death of a pet
Loss of a cherished dream
A loved one’s serious illness
Loss of a friendship
Loss of safety after a trauma
Repossession of the family home
The effect on you
It is not unusual to feel sad, numb, irritable, angry, relieved, guilty, lonely, depressed, frightened or helpless. These feelings can come and go and the process you go through follows a particular sequence.
Alongside your emotional symptoms there can be a variety of physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia. You may feel more tired than usual, yet find it hard to sleep. It is not unusual to have very vivid dreams. Your appetite may change and energy levels may be low. Your concentration may be low so that you are absent-minded or have difficulty absorbing new information.
You might find you spend a lot of time thinking about the loss and the events leading up to it. It is normal to spend time thinking about ‘if onlys’ and how things might have been different. Many people find they think a lot about why it happened. Your thoughts can be overwhelming or frightening at times.
Although it may be difficult to imagine in the early days of grief, as time goes on you will find resources and strength within yourself that you didn’t know you had. Even as we struggle with grief, we can learn and grow with it.
The stages of the grief process
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but they can be applied to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up.
It says that when a person is faced with the reality of impending death or other extreme, awful fate or major altering event, he or she will experience a series of emotional stages. So when any of us face up to a major personal loss we will all go through this grieving process. By knowing what this process is well help you understand why you feel and act as you do, as well as help you progress through it quicker and handle it better.
The five stages of grief:
If you are experiencing any of these emotions following a loss, it helps to know that your reaction is natural and that you’ll heal in time.
Step by step process of Grieving
Denial is an unconscious defence mechanism used to reduce anxiety by denying thoughts, feelings, or facts that are consciously intolerable. When I was told my sight loss was unrecoverable, my reaction was shock and disbelief. I found it hard to accept, and tried to go on as though nothing had happened. I would still sit in front of the computer and be in shock and surprise I couldn’t read any words on the screen. I simply tried to carry on as if though nothing was different. I simply couldn’t deal with the truth or the consequences so rejected what I had been told.
This really hasn’t happened to me, is your first way of reacting to disaster. This can’t be true is a common phrase we will constantly repeat in our minds. This is called denial, and it may be the mind’s way of buying time to get used to a new experience. We are protecting ourselves by refusing to accept the facts, denying the reality of the situation we find ourselves in. It should fade over time as you find ways to adjust to your situation.
The frustrations of not just having lost my sight in this one eye, but now my inability to type, write, read or doing so many of the things I had done on a regular basis really pushed me to the edge. I was at my wits end, delicate and fragile, like a coiled snake ready to strike out at any moment. When I tried to do something that my vision loss prevented me from doing I just found myself erupting in anger. The stress of it, the feeling of hopelessness just kept boiling up and inside I was just so angry thinking constantly “why has this happened to me, it’s so unfair.”
Anger is a strong feeling of discontent and aggression aroused by a wrong. This stage of grief occurs when the person who is grieving gets mad or angry at the person or events that they deem have caused their loss. The grieving person may also get angry at his or herself or at the world. By placing blame elsewhere is a subconscious way to ease their pain. You may get angry with the people around you, or with yourself. Anger is a natural response to unwelcome changes in circumstances. In questioning how the situation happened you’re searching for ways to make things better and get angrier because you can’t find solutions. This anger is also mixed with an overwhelming feeling of fear, sadness and pain. I remember talking with my two children and facing up to a Christmas alone, and I simply broke down. Anger is a way to shift the problem by blaming someone or something for what you’re going through.
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. We have got through our bouts of anger and now we try desperately to find ways of avoiding these bad things happening to us. So now we go through a period of bargaining where we are urgently trying to reverse the situation that has beset us. Secretly, we go through a ridiculous process where we try to avoid the unavoidable by making deals internally with God or a higher power in an attempt to make a deal to indeed reverse this situation. If you let this situation go away, I swear that I will never again type the words ‘how to make money online’ or write a blog where I will criticise any body. You desperately will try any form of bargaining to make your problems go away. We convince ourselves that there is a possibility that we can make deals to end the loss or make it go away, or bring back what we’ve lost. All we can think about is bringing things back to the way they were. We find all types of ways in our mind how this situation could of turned out differently. We play them over and over again. We try to imagine that we had done these things differently and hope that we suddenly find we have woken up from our nightmare and everything has gone back to the way it was. But we do very little to find realistic solutions, exploring what is available to help us in our particular situation. Desperate times call for desperate measures is the saying that comes to mind. Your mind will reverberate with thoughts of what you could do to turn this situation back to the way it was. The hopelessness of your situation pushes you to wish you could have your time all over again, because you could have done other things to try and resolve your situation.
You eventually will wake up to the fact that you can’t even strike a bargain with the devil. What’s done is done and there’s no going back or stopping things that have already happened. Now depression sets in. Depression is defined as a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal, sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason. This is the stage when the person becomes sad and upset most of the time. But they are beginning to wake up to the truth. You’re beating yourself up and now holding yourself responsible for what has happened. You may cry a lot more and may try to shut yourself off from the world around you. I know in my case I did everything I could to hide my true despair from my family. I distanced myself from them so that they wouldn’t see how dreadful I felt. I actually don’t believe they ever realised how much turmoil I went through. Feeling these emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation. In this stage, the person accepts the loss but is unable to cope with it. Depressed and demoralized, the person is in despair seeking remedy and has to come to terms with his situation. You have to move on from this stage as quickly as possible. It will hold you down.
This stage is where the person becomes fully aware of their loss. They begin to become less emotional over the loss. They now come to terms with what has happened and are now getting in a place where they can cope with things better. Acceptance stage projects a ray of hope and the person starts believing in himself and the possibilities ahead. Reality and facts of life are accepted and the person moves forward with their life. You can’t cry over spilt milk, so it’s time to get on with life once more.
Moving on with your life
So there you have it, the 5 painful stages that you have either experienced or are right now following on from whatever disaster may have occurred in your life. You are best off going through this process as quickly as possible so as to get to the end and get started on rebuilding your life because once you have travelled through these stages you are then ready to lift off.
Once you have reached the point of acceptance it’s time to move on, and begin to regain control. You have to take charge of your life to recover from the trauma’s you’ve faced and the consequences of them focusing your mind on your possibilities. This is one of the keys to recovery, look forward not back.
It’s time to get focused on the future and the progress you can now make. You need to be curious about the possibilities and opportunities. Let them drive you on. I was very fortunate. My passion for personal development and what I had learnt from it over the years managed to kick in and get me to look forward which is what I needed to enable me to move on.
Whatever disaster has come your way, you can go on to rebuild your life. You realize you can get on with living and having adjusted to your new reality, you begin to have hope that things will improve, and the future holds promise. You now have to just go on and build the life of your dreams.
Keep your head high
I’m not someone who will allow adversity to keep me down for long. So when faced with vision loss I refused to allow myself to see it as a handicap. My favourite new expression is “I have a disability, I’m not disabled.” If I accepted my limitations in vision as a handicap I would probably give up in many of my goals. I simply refuse to do this.
To me my disability is merely a challenge, something to be resisted and overcome so as to ensure I can continue living life productively and independently.
When disaster strikes it is essential that you react in the right way. Ultimately it won’t be your crises or disaster that determines how life will work out for you but the decisions you make and what you do after them that will.
Now focus on what you can do, and set your ‘sights’ on goals of importance. For those of you with vision loss don’t let it hold you back for longer than necessary, and ensure it doesn’t make you give up on your dreams.