When you hear that cancer diagnosis, this is usually the start of the grief cycle for many people. It’s not full loss in terms of a death or permanent loss, but it’s still grief. It’s helpful, I think, to understand the five stages of grief to help you through your cancer battle. These can be helpful both to patients, but also to loved ones who are walking alongside on the journey.
Stage 1: Denial & Isolation
Often when we get bad news, we simply want to hole up and not see anyone. We can be in a mode of simply wanting to ignore the problem. When it comes to cancer, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of ignoring things and we must act fast. Either way, we may find ourselves wanting to isolate and separate ourselves from other loved ones.
Stage 2: Anger
At some point, as we go through grief, we get to a point of feeling angry. We have a low patience level for things and can get upset over anything – cancer-related or not. Anger may come out to any number of people, from family to the doctors, to God, to even the unsuspecting cashier at the store.
Stage 3: Bargaining
As anger wears off, we start trying to take control back and often that comes in the form of “if only” statements. We might say things like “if only we knew sooner,” or “if only we could get another opinion.” We start to bargain and evaluate the situation.
Stage 4: Depression
Depression can come in terms of emotions related to practical needs, but it can also come out and show itself in a deeper, more quiet expression. Depression can be hard, but I think it’s the most expected emotion we expect ourselves to feel and what we expect out of others. It’s becoming more and more accepted to feel depression and it’s not a shameful emotion to walk through. When we realize, though, that our depression is lingering longer than just a season, we need to get help.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Reaching the point of acceptance can be a true gift. We have more clarity about our situation at this stage and have a lot of power as a result. We can truly fight our cancer fight with everything we’ve got.
Is any one stage of the cycle wrong to be in? How long does the cycle take? Can the order shake up?
The more I dug into this topic, the more questions came up. Since I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist, I know that there may be other people who can speak into this more than I can. What I do know is that by voicing these stages, it gives us all freedom to walk through our battle with grace, knowing that it truly is a journey. We sometimes have to walk through some hard seasons. Let’s do that together and realize that there are people walking through the grief cycle in all walks of life and in all kinds of grief. Let’s walk together.