Most people associate mourning with death. It makes sense. What is sadder than death? After a person dies, it is not only customary, but down right therapeutic, to mourn the passing.
In the Victorian era, mourning wasn’t simply a way to remember the dearly departed, it was actually ritualistic behavior one was expected to exhibit for a time period—the length of which depended on the person’s relationship to the newly departed.
Dressing in black garb known as mourning clothes for a number of days was expected. However, other behaviors such as withdrawing from social engagements—which must have been incredibly difficult in a world without Netflix and the interwebs to keep you company—having lavish funerals, and erecting ornate monuments on the grave site were also to be carried out when in mourning.
Women who had lost their husbands were expected to carry on in this manner for a minimum of two years! That means they were wearing huge, long sleeved black dresses in a world without air conditioning for TWO YEARS…but I guess it didn’t seem that hard once winter rolled around.
I’m sure you’re wondering, by now, the point I am trying to make. Well just hold tight a while longer, my point will come soon.
People of the Victorian era deemed it necessary to wallow in one’s sadness, but as songs from modern day has taught us—the sun will come out tomorrow, we can see clearly now the rain is gone, and joy comes in the morning.
Although most of us wouldn’t want to wear black and cry in the streets for two years after a spouse passes, there is something to be said about giving yourself an appropriate amount of time to grieve when a death happens.
That brings me to the moment you have all been waiting for—the fricken point of this article!
When you were diagnosed with whatever chronic illnesses ail you, did you grieve the death of the person you were prior to your diagnosis? Did you mourn the life you once lived, the job you once enjoyed, the parent you once were?
When I was first diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, I didn’t mourn. I was diagnosed at nineteen but I had been sick since I was seven. Hardly enough time was given for me to discover who I was at seven let alone mourn that person.
This isn’t the case for many who are diagnosed, however.
Many diagnoses come after a life has begun—after a person has children, careers, and friends. Many diagnoses come crashing into a person’s life after they already know who they are.
That can be devastating! Suddenly, you find yourself being unable to perform at the career or job you love, unable to be the type of parent you want to be, unable to clean house or hang with friends. Suddenly, you are unable to participate in the life you’ve built for yourself.
The old you is slowly dying and you’re being replaced by a person who looks just like you, but you don’t even recognize—a person you never thought you would have to be.
I began at a very early age learning how to fit my disease into my life. I was able to learn my limitations and adjust my behaviors accordingly. It was harder in a lot of ways, being diagnosed while I was young—but it was easier in some ways, too.
Many people who receive that, much too difficult, diagnosis late in life find it hard making the adjustment. No one wants to give up their independence or freedom to become slave to some disease that now calls all the shots.
It’s hard for a person like me who has never had a chance to be independent; I can’t imagine what it’s like for a person who has lived their whole adult life independently until life decides to drive head first into a brick wall.
It’s true. Your disease will change you. You won’t be the exact same person you were before you were diagnosed. You will think differently, you will live your life differently, you will be forever changed—still the old you, but slightly different—some might even say a little haunted.
After all, you used to be able to come and go as you please and now you have the ghost of chronic illness floating overhead being ever so happy to point out the things you can and can’t handle, when you can and can’t be happy, what you can and can’t eat, and the people you are and aren’t up to seeing.
That’s why what I am about to tell you is so important.
You need a mourning period. Mourning the person you used to be will help you except the fun-sucking ghost that now looms over your life reminding you each day of the person you wished you still were and the person you must now accept.
Joy comes in the mourning. This is true. If you give yourself time to mourn the person you used to be, making it easier to accept the person life will force you to become. The less you fight the transition between old and new self, the easier the transition will be to make.
You were an awesome person pre-diagnosis and you will still be an awesome person after with a few modifications to the way you live.
Remember, before you can accept the person chronic illness is sure to turn you into, you must mourn the person you once were because joy truly DOES come in the mourning.
I will leave you with my favorite lyrics from the song that inspired this blog post:
I’m pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse for His promise will endure
That His joy’s gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning