The Grieving Process
Last updated: September 2022
I have become much better acquainted with the grieving process since being diagnosed with heart failure. The symptoms of heart failure carry a very high burden for yourself and your family/support system. It's a tough pill to swallow that you can be 'stable' and still be symptomatic. I do not think that there has been a day when I do not feel like a cardiac patient. It sucks.
Learning about the process
I was wrong
Before my diagnosis, I thought that the grieving process was something that you did in a few months. It was a process with a clear beginning and end, and when you were done it was done. Boy was I wrong!
Not linear and uniform
I think it's important to be kind to ourselves, and a part of that is realizing that the grieving process is not linear. There are stages but you can go back and forth. Unfortunately, as I've learned through therapy, it's not something that you necessarily 'complete' either. This was tough to understand and accept; however, now I can recognize when some feelings pop up and it is easier to manage.
Grieving with HF
I've learned that fighting it and self-blame make the situation worse. Also, there is no 'one size fits all.' Lastly, grief does not just come from your own death or the death of a loved one. Given the immense impact of heart failure, (in my opinion) there is a huge loss and consequent grieving that comes with a heart failure diagnosis as well.
Stages of grief
There is a lot of information online about the five stages of grief, so I encourage searching online if you would like further information. However, one thing to point out is that denial is what keeps grief survivable. It is what helps pace the grief so it is not overwhelming.1 In my experience, there were times that I recognized I was in denial but I also know I just mentally could not handle it all at that time.
Bargaining is a stage that some of you might not be familiar with as it's not something we commonly associate with grief. In my case, after reading about it, I can recognize signs of this in myself! Bargaining is the process of making plea bargains with a higher power in a hope of regaining control over the situation. In this stage, people are beginning to realize that they have little control over the situation as they enter the next stage of anger.
Symptoms of grief
Are you experiencing grief? It can be challenging to assess because some of the stages described above seem clinical. The power of denial is also profound. Sometimes we 'see' what we want to see. So, as a double-check, here are some of the symptoms of grief that I have experienced and read about in others:1
- Sadness, frustration, and anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Questioning your purpose
- Isolation from friends and family
- Abnormal behavior
- Worry, guilt, and anxiety
- Loss of appetite
- Aches and pains
- Additional stress
Be sure to keep an eye out for these and other potential symptoms of grief.
Have you experienced shortness of breath in the last week?