During my nursing training, I was introduced to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief and loss related to helping patients and their families as they experienced dying and the loss of a loved one. Since that time, I’ve come to realize that those five stages of grief are not exclusive to death and dying. We experience the same emotions whenever there is a significant loss, including the loss of what “should” be.
I would suggest that most of us think of our life span in stages:
Stage 1 Preparation for Life: Being born, the preschool years, completing K-12, college, or career training
Stage 2 The Productive Years: Finding a mate, starting a career, having a family, settling into a pattern of living.
Stage 3 The Plateau Years: Instead of struggling up the hill to acquire and achieve more, you start to live out the life you have chosen with marginal ups and downs, some crises, but you know what you have planned your life to be like and you’re living it.
Stage 4 The Declining Years: Children grew; maybe starting their own families. You are not still trying to build a career but are instead reaping the seeds you have sown so your push forward and upward is declining and now you’re settled and taking it easy. Probably having more aches and pains and the development of some chronic conditions has likely happened as age wears away at muscles, joints, energy, and memory.
That’s our expectation for how life should go. Then somewhere in your productive years, you start noticing that something is just not right with your spouse. He’s getting tired more often. He’s having more difficulty with activities. First, he goes to the doctor for this, and then for that…he gets better but it comes back…and you start to wonder what’s happening. Then someone mentions Multiple Sclerosis. You dismiss that notion because it just can’t be true. He’s fine. He’s able to _____(fill in the blank depending on what you have seen of people before with MS). He’s young. He’s strong. He’s healthy….They are wrong. I won’t let it be true.
So you go look for “someone who knows what they are doing” and get referred to a neuro-someone—neurologist, neurosurgeon, neuro-ophthalmologist, or maybe a physical medicine/rehabilitation specialist. Someone orders an MRI, a lumbar puncture is performed, and blood is drawn. Then you get the call, “your husband has MS,” and your blood turns to ice. No, it can’t be. They must be wrong. We have children to raise. I have a career. What if he can’t walk? How will I do this along (having already put it into the ‘disable’ category? What does this mean for us…for me?
And, just like that; you’re been thrown headfirst into the spiraling stages of grief and loss…only you’re not the one who has the condition causing the loss; you’re the one who is supposed to be understanding, supportive, and their “rock” to hold onto while they go through their emotional crisis. But, when you’re married and your spouse has MS, he’s not the only one with MS; you have it too, by proxy. So the shock, disbelief, denial that happens with him also happens to you.
continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/a-caregivers-perspective-dealing-with-loss/