5 Stages of Grief

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. 

I’m No Stranger to the Loss of Loved Ones

The universe shed

a tear of sadness today

for a man who touched many

in his own special way.

He greeted those close

with a big bear hug.

and when parting, expressed

 feelings of friendship and love.

He lived a life

void of want or of fear

and followed a drummer’s beat,

audible just to his ear.

He knew what he wanted,

the way he liked things to be.

He would tell you about it,

particularly.

Vinny, Vin Man, Vincenzo,

Mike, Michael, Barbaro;

He answered these calls

with a hearty, “Lets Go!”

Up for any adventure,

Michael always came through.

He was the perfect wingman

with a take no prisoners attitude!

We have loved and lost him,

no longer where he was before.

He is now wherever we are

and will be ever more.

–Frank Antonicelli, Matt Mumber

 

As you’ve read from my book Know Your Enemy, I’m no stranger to the loss of loved ones. Though it is no less hard these days, it is always a reminder of what matters in life (to me). It reminds me of how love is infinite, but time is not.

Matt Mumber, MD, a good friend and co-author of “Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit”, and I collaborated on the poem above as a way of coping with the recent, sudden death of our mutual, long-time friend Michael.

This collaboration led me to again take account of the remaining people in my life and the people who have been in my life. I could choose to focus on the loss, but instead, I choose to focus on the time I did have with the people I love(d) like Michael and how much they (and he) contributed to my life. I choose to focus on the people I still have in my life.

People might look at my life and be sad for me for what I am now lacking, but the reality is that I have been rich. I have been blessed with such amazing people in my life and amazing experiences. The enemy of cancer in my life has actually brought about quite a huge shift in my life, some of which allowed me to find these people and value my life like I hadn’t before.

If I could, of course, I would choose for my wife and mom and Michael to still be here. I still miss them and love them and there really isn’t such a thing as “moving on” from that. They live on in me forever, though. They live on in remembering who they were, what they taught me, and continuing to remember that my time on this earth is limited and to make every minute count.

Spring is coming into bloom again and flowers around us are reborn from death. Change is all around us; the cycle of life continues with or without us. Similarly, I’ve found with loss comes transformation and renewal and rebirth of sorts. We can choose to dwell in the muck or we can choose to soar and be reborn stronger than before.

What will you choose?

 

Know Your Limitations As A Giver

 

The inspiration for this blog came from the classic Clint Eastwood aka “Dirty Harry” line in Magnum Force “A man has got to know his limitations.” To me, this means that it is equally important to be self-aware of what we cannot do as well as what we can do. So why then is it important for givers to know their limitations? Because, the act of giving can be both a blessing and a curse for individuals wired this way. By understanding the tendencies associated with giving, individuals can better use this gift to help others without compromising their personal health or happiness.

Let’s step back for a moment and get some clarity on how I’m using the term giver. I believe certain individuals, I include myself in this group, are predisposed with an excessive giving gene. They are selfless individuals; that are generous with their time; and get real sense of joy and pleasure out of helping others. One of my less than flattering nicknames in high school, among my closest friends, was State Farm. You know the jingle “like a good neighbor, State Farm, is there.” They picked up on the fact that I was always helping someone with something. There was a lot of truth to this nickname and the irony of it is that it was both a compliment and a cut, or blessing and curse, as I previously mentioned.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know the many blessings associated with the act of giving but have you ever considered that there may also be pitfalls with over-giving? Givers tend to place a greater importance on the wants and needs of others over their own. This behavior, over time, can lead to a sense of frustration, resentment and even neglect. So, the million dollar question is how do givers insure that their giving is truly a blessing for others without also becoming a self-induced curse? 

For me, it took the loss of two loved ones, my mother Maxine and wife Alyson in 18 months, to grasp the stark reality that time is both precious and finite. I quickly came to the realization that time is a special commodity that must be protected and respected. I have become much more selective regarding how I spend my time and with whom do I give of my time. I now look forward to squeezing every minute out of each new day with my like-minded band of brothers. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by a special group of friends that place the same value on friendship, athletic competition, music and laughter and truly love life, as do I. They are truly the ultimate givers!

In my book, Know Your Enemy, the First Edition, I told the story about how blessed I felt to have the love and support of friends and family members during one of the most grueling periods in my life. Their genuine acts of kindness and compassion reinforced my belief in the goodness of others and the notion of having a greater purpose in life. I wrote the following poem to express my gratitude to this special group of individuals.

I would encourage readers of this blog to re-assess how you currently spend your time and with whom do you spend it. Remember, it’s never too late to change, but one must first be aware of and acknowledge a need to change before change can occur.


The Chosen Few

When a life-changing event, rocks your world to the core.

Who will help you up, as you pick yourself off the floor?

Consider yourself blessed, if your earthly sphere includes.

A special band of brothers, I refer to as -The Chosen Few.

No obstacle is too great, for this brotherhood to overcome.

And no quarter will they cede, until the final battle is won.

Of whom do I speak? Who are these chosen few?

They are a special band of brothers, and one of them, is you.

So in these words I Thank You, more than you will ever know.

And, if the need shall one day arise, I, too, will stand with you.

A Poem For Earth Day

Earth Day, April 22nd

There are those in this world,

who often take for granted.

The beauties of life,

placed on this planet.

 

But nature’s gifts,

were put on this earth.

For human beings,

to enjoy not desert.

 

And if we continue,

at the current destructive pace.

We will have only ourselves to blame,

for the extinction of the human race.

 

So on this special day,

as we take time to reflect.

On the state of our environment, 

its cause and effect.

 

What is the solution?

We must all come together.

And promote environmental preservation,

not only now but forever!