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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Losing A Loved One To a Chronic Illness

We have all been there. We see a post or get a call, and the floor drops out from under us. We don't know what to do or what to say because we have just been told that one of our loved ones has passed away, without rhyme or reason, due to complications from a chronic illness. How do you handle that? It seems like it goes beyond the regular grieving process because you watched this person suffer and wrestle with a chronic illness for a long time before they passed. You get angry because people make off hand comments that they knew this person was going to die because they were so ill, yet the last time you talked to your love one, they were fine. So, how do you deal with the news, knowing that you will never get to have another conversation? Knowing what you do about their illness?

With Gastroparesis, it can be a lot more sneaky. I mean, most people seem fine on the outside but are suffering immensely behind the scenes. If you want to know more about how people with Gastroparesis live and what they suffer from, I have great resources in my blog. But this article, this is to honor those fallen GP Warriors, those who have given their lives to fight for a cure for Gastroparesis. We will never forget them and we will keep them alive in our hearts and our memories, and keep them alive in our fight. So, again, how do you deal with the loss? Based on my personal experiences, I'm going to share some things that really help me when I lose a loved one, especially really good friends, to an invisible illness.

I have another article with the stages of grief in it, entitled, "The Grieving Process for a Chronic Illness, and How to Overcome It" that you can find by clicking here: http://www.emilysstomach.com/2014/02/the-grieving-process-for-chronic.html. This will tell you about the stages of grief. I recommend reading it so that you can prepare yourself and to know how grief effects people.

The only logical answer I can give you is that there is no way to get over a loss. You can move past it, but you never truly get over losing a loved one, especially to a chronic illness.

Lean on support groups, with other people who have gone what you are going through, to help you through this difficult time. I recommend that highly, because people are social animals, and it helps to have empathy and people on your side with what you're going through. I started a Facebook Group, Grief Group for GPers, for those who have lost loved ones to Gastroparesis and who want to talk about it. We ask that everything posted in the group, stays in the group, due to family privacy matters. We also have an album of loved ones who have passed that we keep updated, so that we never forget why we are fighting and who we are fighting for, when we fight for things like awareness, research, and a cure for Gastroparesis. The group can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/gpgriefgroup/.

Joining a support group can definitely help, but I also recommend writing. Writing helps me a lot. When I'm able to get out all of my feelings onto a laptop or a piece of paper, I feel purged and a lot better. You can tear up the paper afterwards or delete a word document, if you don't want anyone else to stumble across it but it helps to get your feelings out. I write this blog to help me deal with even having an invisible illness and most days, it helps me keep my sanity. You don't have to start a blog, but keeping a notebook will help. Like I said, you don't have to keep your feelings once you've written them down. You can throw them away, tear them up, do whatever you like to the page(s) that you write. I like to keep mine to reflect back on how I was feeling and how far I've come since that point. I have a journal that I write in and carry around with me, in addition to this blog.

Lean on your friends. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but your friends are there to support you and help you. Invite them over to your house (I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to go out since I suffer from nausea and vomiting a lot due to GP, gastroparesis, but everyone's GP is different) and put on a movie that you all love, play a game, board or video, and talk. It helps having a distraction and your friends will be there for you. You can tell them about your loved one, relive memories, and honor them in your own way. It helps, at times like these, to have friends you can depend on to make you feel better and the interaction will really help, especially if you've been keeping yourself in isolation.



And the last thing that I would recommend, especially if you can't go to the funeral, is to have your own ceremony. I know this sounds weird, but hear me out. You can do something simple and personal, between you and the loved one you lost. I take flowers, they can be hand picked or bought at a store, and I sit in the backyard. I place them at the edge of the yard, and I talk to my loved one that I've lost. I tell them how I feel, and you can do this in your head if you want to, especially if there are people outside. The important thing is to let out any pent up tears and feelings. Talk to the person you lost like they were there with you, next to you. Lay down the flowers and have your own moment. You don't need a funeral to let them know how you feel. I know I have a hard time going places because I vomit quite a lot, and I am always nauseated. Being in a car exacerbates that feeling, because I get motion sick, so I have my own ceremony, in my backyard. I know this sounds odd, but it really helps me. It helps me say goodbye and saying goodbye, in your own way, is very important. It's important that you let go. You can do whatever makes you feel comfortable, this is just my own little ritual I want to share with you to give you an idea of the things you can do. This is just very personal for me, and this is something I've never told anyone. A good friend of mine, whom I lost, once told me that she didn't want to die because of the suffering she would cause to the people left behind. I still think about that and she's been gone for twenty years.

We have lost five people so far, just this month, from complications due to Gastroparesis. It breaks my heart and saddens me...but it also gives me purpose. I want to continue fighting for those people whom we've lost, and I want to do it to keep them alive. One day, we will find a cure. But, for right now, I have high hopes for more awareness and research. I actually met a lady at the dentist who knew all about Gastroparesis, and I didn't have to explain it to her. She had read about it somewhere. It's going to happen. It may be slow, but awareness is taking shape, and hopefully, research and a cure aren't far behind it.

May our loved ones walk among the stars and be proud of us for carrying on and fighting for Gastroparesis.