7 Stages of Grief - Lets Fuck Cancer


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Accept Decline

A caregiver’s guide to

The 7 Stages of Grief

Cancer is a lot…like a lot, a lot. It’s normal to feel a lot of different emotions when it comes to caring for a loved one with cancer, including loss. Being a caregiver can lead to loss in many forms – loss of independence, relationships, identity, or the future you envisioned – and is intimately connected to grief.

What are the 7 Stages?

The 7 Stages of Grief is a framework that can help you work through the common emotions associated with being a caregiver. It’s important to recognize that even though you may not be the one with cancer, your life is still incredibly affected by it. You’re experiencing a life-altering shift, while supporting your loved one, and feeling your own feelings.

The 7 stages can take place sequentially or out of order, and sometimes you might find yourself back at a stage you thought you were done with. It’s all relative, normal, and unique to you.

Grief is messy.

1. Shock

Learning that your loved one has cancer is shocking. Shock is your body’s way of protecting you from experiencing too many overwhelming emotions at once. You might feel numb, like you’re dreaming, panicked, or like you’re just going through the motions. Either way, your experience is unique and there is no right or wrong way to experience the shock of cancer.

2. Denial

Coming to terms with your loved ones’ cancer and the impact it will have on your life can take time. Sometimes your mind copes with life altering news by existing in an ideal reality, rather than actual reality. Denial is your body’s way of avoiding pain and is very normal.

“Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

3. Anger

Cancer fucking sucks. Anger can appear on any given day and in many different ways. You might get road rage, lash out at a friend, or have an Oscar-worthy meltdown in the grocery store. You might even lash out at your loved one. Anger is normal and to be expected. Look, you’re processing your emotions, supporting your loved one, and keeping up with your own responsibilities – it’s safe to say you’re going through it. There’s no one-size-fits-all guide here, so be kind to yourself.

If you lash out or do something you regret – own it and apologize. Just don’t be too hard on yourself, cancer is hard enough.

4. Bargaining

When your loved one has cancer, a lot of things are out of your control. Bargaining is your mind’s way of trying to regain that control. You might daydream about what-if scenarios or make promises to the universe in an effort to change the situation. This is a normal part of the process and typically leads to bargaining’s overbearing sibling…guilt.

5. Guilt

Many caregivers feel a sense of blame or regret when it comes to their loved ones’ cancer. Whether it’s household or family lifestyle factors you think might have affected their diagnosis or guilt over how your caregiving role is impacting your life, your feelings are normal. The important thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling and why. Communicate your feelings with someone you love, a support group, or a therapist. Find ways to channel your emotions into hobbies or activities. Anything that can get you out of your head.

6. Depression

Buckle up. Things are about to get real.

We won’t sugarcoat it: Depression is usually the longest and hardest stage. Depression is when you realize the true extent of what’s happening and get to feel all the feelings that the other stages have been protecting you from up until now. You could feel empty, lonely, isolated, anxious, or lost. It’s normal to experience trouble sleeping or getting out of bed, not be able to eat normally, spontaneously cry, have poor hygiene, or realize you’ve been playing Adele nonstop for days. Depression sucks, but no matter how it presents itself for you or the amount of time you spend with it, it’s normal.

7. Acceptance

Finding acceptance means coming to terms with your and your loved ones’ new reality. It doesn’t mean you’re okay with the situation or that you’re never going to revisit any of the other stages, it just means your emotions are more stable. You might feel like a fog has lifted, you’re in a better place to reach out to loved ones again, or you’re ready to get back into your daily routine.

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