Loss of health

— Skylight Trust

One of the biggest challenges of any illness or disability is coping with the changes, losses and grief that they can bring with them. What can help?​

A loss of health, mental health, and/or of physical abilities may be gradual, or sudden. What could happen next is often very uncertain. An unwell person must adjust to both physical changes and their consequences. Everyday life can become quite different. There can be all kinds of losses to get used to.

A person may lose:

  • their old self – how they used to be (identity)
  • their sense of control over their body or mind
  • independence
  • the ability to keep up usual every day routines, to do familiar tasks, or be in usual roles
  • mobility
  • the ability to drive
  • employment and previous income, career plans
  • opportunities to do things they’d anticipated or planned – their dreams
  • ready access to friends, family, whānau and community previously enjoyed
  • confidence – in themselves, in the future
  • self esteem
  • privacy and dignity
  • familiar surroundings, if a move from home is needed
  • life as it was.

The grief that naturally follows such significant and life altering losses, can take considerable time to process. Grief can start at diagnosis, but with daily reminders and frustrations about what’s been lost, or with new health issues arising or crises happening, people can feel they are in a continuous cycle of loss and grief. Despite this, sometimes their grief can go un-recognised or unacknowledged by others, who don’t realise the huge impact that a change in health can have.

What can help?

Any kind of loss needs acknowledging and grieving for, whatever it is. Make time to grieve honestly for what has changed and been lost. Do it in your way. Grief is a process that helps people adjust gradually, to what’s happened. Learn about it.

  • There will be good days and not so good days. Be kind to yourself
  • Express yourself. Maybe write thoughts and feelings down, use music, have conversations, get creative, cry, yell… everyone is different, but grief can bring strong, deep feelings and releasing them can be a relief
  • Talking can help. Find someone trusted to talk to about what you’re dealing with. Perhaps a close family member or friend, a Counsellor, a doctor or health support worker, or others who have 'been there’ and know what it’s really like
  • Use whatever stress-busting activities that have helped before, to manage stress and be willing to try some new ideas
  • Ask for help if you need it and use all the support that’s available
  • Keep connected with others and avoid becoming isolated. Reach out with visits or by phone, email, messaging, video chat, or even letters
  • Your outlook matters. A positive attitude can help you look for solutions and give things a go
  • Gratitude can help you notice the good things, in the middle of big challenges
  • Optimism can help you find some hope
  • Use your sense of humour and spend time with those who like to laugh and have fun
  • Give yourself a break. Distract yourself sometimes with things you still enjoy doing
  • Keep up routines if that helps you feel more settled
  • Look after yourself well, every day. Get the basics right, like exercise, good sleep, and regular meals
  • Find some extra support if you are struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You don’t need to go through this on your own. Connect with a doctor, Counsellor, support person, support group, or a helpline.

Resources Available at Skylight

Skylight is here to help you through difficult times. We can assist you in a variety of ways with information appropriate for your situation. You are welcome to visit us and receive free information and a support pack from our resource centre and borrow books from the specialist library. We also facilitate Professional Development training and offer Counselling support services for children, young people, family/whānau and individuals who are experiencing tough times.

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