Coping with Identity Loss after a Chronic Illness Diagnosis
Everyday there is grieving. Whether a loss, a memory, or even a broken amulet. We are always grieving in some way. And while we all grieve differently it becomes the fuel for growth. One of the hardest things I’ve grieved, aside from the loss of my father, was grieving the loss of identity after my life changing my diagnosis. For me, that meant finding out I had a stroke, that left me blind and deaf in the left side. I would need to learn how to walk again and even how to hold a fork to eat.
The next few months were crucial for my well-being and healing. I had to bring myself back to health with the help of my medical team and my desire to move on from this season in my life. I had really bad days and really good days. Overall I had the most important piece—the will to survive. I needed to accept my diagnosis to start healing. However, I had to go through some healing with identity loss.
After my initial diagnosis, I was left with lots of questions, unexplained emotions, and fearing the future of the unknown. I had to start all over again. I found this through acceptance, determination, willpower and grace. Somehow, through the loss of my old life, I was able to push forward. Therefore with the acceptance of what once was and what will soon come I was able to heal. It was time to put this all into practice and here’s what I did.
Acceptance for the Current Season in My Life
As hard as it was, I accepted what happened and decided that I had to do everything to heal. This is not to say that I didn’t have my days allowing myself to cry and be sad and even angry. I’m a believer that you need to feel and cry in order to heal. So cry, scream, and throw a tantrum if you need to in order to heal.
What goals? My goal was to heal, to live life again. I created goals for getting myself back to health. In this circumstance my goal was to get better; and allow work to take a backseat. My job now was to get better, to start life again. I was given a second chance at life and as much as it sucked to lose a lot. I had the option to build something new.
I can tell you that without that motivation , without that why, I wouldn’t be here to talk about my experience. We can either choose to feel sorry for ourselves or do the best we need to get better. I was determined to stay away from the hospital as much as possible. I was determined to live.
Creating a Gratitude Practice
I live in gratitude each day. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank life for the second chance to live. I can see how much I had taken for granted in my life and even of myself. I learned to view life in a new way. So you see I did have a loss. I lost the parts of me that didn’t belong to me anymore. And in turn I gained so much more. I saw a strength I never thought I had and stepped outside of my comfort zone to get better.
Allowing Myself to Move Through the Pain
This one is crucial in my healing journey. I allowed myself to grieve the past and feel. I journaled through the pain, which was incredibly healing. I had many days where I would cry and be angry with life with my circumstances, but I kept going. It’s ok to cry and scream. Feel it all and keep going. Looking back on all those years. I realize that this was a very important piece in my healing.
The grief with my identity when I received my diagnosis was a realization that I knew would change me forever was something that propelled me to heal. I knew that there was more to my life. I felt it. I am living and experiencing it. Incorporating these practices have helped me get there. And I hope the same for you as well.
This article was written and contributed by:
Wellness Practitioner, Reiki Master, and Hairdresser
Natalia is an energy healing hairdresser who discovered Reiki at 19, where her two worlds of hairdressing and Reiki would merge. After a chronic illness diagnosis changed the course of her career, she rediscovered Reiki and become a level 2 practitioner in 2020. She has since then gone on to become a Master Reiki Practitioner in March 2021. Her goal is to help all those in need through her energy work and life lessons where she believes and knows her stories can heal and inspire others.