August 10, 2022

Coping With the Living Losses of Chronic Illness


For many living with chronic illnesses, grief and loss may seem like it comes with territory. Often, patients living with chronic illness experience a variety of losses resulting from their illness. This kind of loss is commonly called a living loss.

A living loss is the loss of anything you value or are attached to such as the loss of a job, loss of a relationship through a move or separation. Individuals living with chronic illness may experience a loss of independence when they are unable to drive or a loss of body image following a major surgery.

Experiencing feelings of loss, sadness or grief is not limited to the loss of a loved one through death. A process of grieving is a common part of the transition from the life one used to live before the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness to living and even thriving as one lives with a chronic illness.

Coping With the Living Losses of Chronic Illness - Pure Healthcare

While the death of a loved one is experienced as a single event and mourned communally, living losses are often felt in many moments over time and too often, mourned all alone. The loss of strength or coordination may lead to the diminished ability to perform tasks, hobbies, or activities of daily living without assistance. Changes to one’s body resulting from major surgery can disrupt an individual’s sense of who they are, lower their self-esteem, and lead to worry and anxiety.

As a result of their chronic illness, individuals may experience the loss of financial security, the loss of the ability to do their favorite activities, or the ability to take part in celebrations, traditions or other important events. These living losses impact our emotional, mental and physical well-being.

As a caregiver or individual living with a chronic illness, there are some things you can do to take care of yourself and honor the grief of living losses, summoning strength and finding the resilience to make each day matter.

     •  Acknowledge your grief. People tend to be overwhelmed by something they don’t understand. Recognizing symptoms and admitting the feelings of grief helps to normalize the response. Symptoms of grief may include feelings of sadness, worry, crying, feeling of anger or irritability, and difficulty sleeping.

     •  Be kind to yourself. Remember that it is okay to grieve, no matter what you have lost. Grief looks different for everyone, and there is no single way to grieve.

     •  Take care of your body with light exercise, and limit caffeine intake. Practice deep breathing and get a good night’s sleep.

     •  Connect with others. It is vital to have a strong social support network when you are experiencing grief. Calling a loved one or setting up a lunch with a friend offers hope and joy.

     •  Check your perspective. It’s easy when we feel bad to assume we will feel this way forever, but that is seldom the truth. Most people have been through difficulty times in the past. What have you done to get through hard times in the past? What are some things you are still able to do?

     •  Remember your why: What are the things that move you, motivate you and bring you joy? What are things in your life that make each day matter?

     •  Get professional help if needed. Seeking help from a therapist or spiritual adviser can make all the difference as a complement to self-care.

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