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Therapy for Chronic Illness & Grief/Loss 

Receiving a New Diagnosis

When you receive a new diagnosis, it can feel like you are alone in the world, and that you are the only person dealing with what you are going through. But, according to the CDC, chronic illness in its many forms affects about half of all adults in the United States- that means you are not alone.

A new diagnosis can bring to the forefront some complex, painful and scary thoughts and feelings about your mortality, interpersonal roles, family dynamics and many other things. It can be scary, stressful and you may feel overwhelmed by the cloud of uncertainty that looms over the future. Suddenly there are so many questions racing through your mind- What will my life look like now? Will I be able to do the things I enjoy? Will people look at me differently? Why has my body failed me? Will I lose myself to the illness? What does this mean for my family? For my relationships? What did I do to deserve this? And so many more.

You may also find that you are experiencing a wide range of feelings including anger, denial, resentment, fear, depression, helplessness, frustration, hopelessness, sadness, irritability, anxiety, and others. Dealing with your emotions on top of the physical symptoms of your illness can feel both mentally and physically exhausting.

Successfully coping with all of this may seem out of reach, but, despite all the questions, stress and difficult feelings you are struggling with, you are more resilient than you know. With supports and time, you can learn to adapt to your new circumstances. Therapy can help with adjusting to your new diagnosis by providing a private and supportive setting to deal with sensitive emotional and relationship issues. It provides a collaborative space where feelings can be expressed openly and without judgment. The therapeutic process helps you gain insight into thoughts and patterns of thinking about your illness and other life issues, as well as into how those impact your behaviors and relationships. Therapy is also a place where you can learn new coping skills to deal with the current issue, as well as to become better at handling future challenges. Let’s work towards that together.


Caring for a Loved One with a Chronic Illness

Caring for someone who is chronically ill is hard. You worry for them and for yourself. You love them and want to help them, but also end up shouldering so much extra responsibility, work and stress. It may be difficult to talk with people about your feelings- you don’t want to place added stress on your loved one or make them feel like a burden. You also might feel like friends or others won’t understand and so feel isolated in the experience. Maybe you are frustrated with your loved one and feel that they could be more independent or feel underappreciated for all you do. Maybe you have had to take on new roles and have had to change how you define yourself. Maybe this is not the life you planned and you feel guilty for having those thoughts. Maybe you are experiencing some “care-giver stress” and are feeling burned out. Maybe you feel impotent in your ability to improve the situation or despair over not being able to save your loved from being ill or from whatever their prognosis is.

All of your thoughts and feelings are valid. (even the ones you don’t feel comfortable voicing)

The idea of giving yourself permission to feel your feelings may be new and challenging, especially since care givers often get used to putting their need and feelings last. You are able to care for and love someone and also take care of your own emotional needs.

But how?

Talk therapy can help you process all of these feeling, learn how to better communicate your needs and concerns, help you learn ways to cope with the stress, helps foster self-care activities and can help replenish you when you feel depleted.

Grief & Loss

I am sorry for your loss and the pain you are experiencing. There are so many feelings associated with grief and they can be confusing and vary in intensity. It can feel like an emotional roller coaster where one moment you are doing okay and the next you are intensely emotional. It is important to remember that grief is a natural reaction to loss and can be experienced over any type of significant loss. There is no one right way to grieve and grief reactions can vary widely person to person. Some recover from a loss relatively quickly (within 6 months, with periods of sadness after), while for others the grief may linger for extended periods of time. Some may be able to return to their regular day to day routines more easily, while others cannot. No one way of grieving is better than any other and it is important not to measure your grief against anyone else’s.  People will often find themselves bouncing between different lines of thinking and feeling as they process their loss and make sense of their feelings.

Some common symptoms of grief include:

  • Feelings of deep sadness

  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation

  • Loss of control over one’s feelings

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Numbness

  • Anger

  • Guilt

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Lethargy/ Listlessness

  • Regret

  • Yearning

While the most obvious and recognized form of grief is bereavement, or the grief over loss of a loved one, there are many other common grief-inducing events. These events include:

  • Death of a loved one

  • Divorce

  • Breakups

  • Marriage

  • Retirement

  • Parenthood

  • Perinatal loss

  • Sudden life changes

  • Loss of trust or safety

  • New health diagnosis

Talk therapy can help you move through the grief process and ultimately help you adapt to the loss through dialogue and reflection about the loss. Therapy can also help you learn ways to cope with the stress of the loss and the symptoms of grief through mindfulness, self-soothing and self-care activities.

As most people know President Biden has dealt with a great deal of loss. In this interview he gives beautiful advice on coping with grief and loss that might resonate with you. 

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