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Grief and Diabetes: Nurturing Emotional Health

As human beings, we recognize the importance of nurturing not only our physical health but also our emotional and spiritual well-being. Diabetes, often seen as a physical illness, can become a source of grief, impacting our emotional health and challenging our sense of normalcy. The connection between diabetes and grief comes into focus when we draw upon the Kubler-Ross theory of the five stages of grieving.


By sharing our personal stories and experiences, we can shed light on the emotional journey those of us with diabetes face and highlight the significance of acceptance, belief, and commitment in navigating this complex condition that never takes a day off.


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Understanding the Five Stages of Grief

The Kubler-Ross theory of grieving encompasses five emotions or phases:

  1. depression

  2. anger

  3. denial

  4. bargaining

  5. acceptance

It is crucial to acknowledge that everyone's journey with these emotions is unique, and there is no predetermined order or timeline for experiencing them. Grief can be a cyclical process, and its manifestations may vary among individuals.


In the realm of diabetes, acknowledging and embracing one's emotions becomes an integral part of the healing process. Acceptance, belief, and commitment form a powerful framework for navigating the complexities of living with diabetes. These three components intertwine to create a solid foundation for emotional well-being.


I was recently joined by Jessica Dudzinski on the Type 1 In Midlife podcast for a discussion about Diabetes and the Five Stages of Grieving.


Jessica's Journey Through the Stages of Grief

Jessica shared that she was diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager. At that time, she longed for normalcy and felt overwhelmed by the prospect of managing a chronic condition. She was lucky to have a supportive nurse who instilled a sense of comfort and reassurance which planted the seeds for her resilient mindset.

As she worked through the stages of denial and bargaining, she used extreme behaviors to gain control over her diabetes. From restrictive eating patterns to excessive exercise, she believed that she could manipulate her body's response to diabetes. These phases brought temporary solace but ultimately led her to realize the importance of working with her body, rather than against it.


Living with a chronic illness like diabetes can be a challenging and transformative experience. It often requires us to navigate various emotional stages before reaching a place of acceptance.


3 Steps Towards Acceptance


1. The Power of Motivation:

It's crucial that we highlight the importance of family and children as motivators for embracing a healthy lifestyle and maintaining good communication. Jessica shared with me that she recognizes the impact her actions can have on her loved ones, especially when it comes to managing her diabetes. By being at peace with our conditions, we aim to set a positive example for our children and equip them with valuable learning tools as they grow up.

2. The Role of Faith:

Jessica shared a story about attending a Catholic youth group retreat during her high school years. Despite being relatively new to diabetes at that time, she was already in search of acceptance and open to change. The anxiety surrounding her condition on the retreat prompted a significant realization – Jesus, who had endured great suffering, would not want us to feel anxious and burdened by diabetes. This revelation marked the first time she allowed Jesus to enter her struggle and identify with him.

3. Inspiration to Help Others:

Jessica shared that her perspective shifted rapidly from self-pity to a sense of purpose. She felt a strong desire to be a nurse who could assist others in their struggles, offering hope and walking alongside them. This transformative experience solidified her commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of those facing similar challenges.


The Weight of Sadness

Both Jessica and I still experience sadness and moments of despair throughout our diabetes journeys. I know, all too well that there is an emotional toll not only on myself but also on my loved ones. Jessica shared with me what it was like for her to witness her mother's tears and feel the weight of their shared burden. This experience prompted her to confront her emotions and strive for a more positive outlook.



Overcoming Grief and Diabetes

Living with diabetes often comes with the challenge of being misunderstood. It's important to look beyond the surface and educate others about the daily struggles and triumphs associated with diabetes. By fostering understanding, we can create a supportive environment that promotes emotional well-being.

Nurturing emotional health is an essential aspect of managing diabetes. The journey through the stages of grief can be complex and unique for each individual. By recognizing and embracing our emotions, we lay the groundwork for acceptance, belief, and commitment, which are vital in navigating the challenges of diabetes. Together, we can foster a culture of empathy and understanding, enabling individuals with diabetes to thrive emotionally and live life to the fullest.


Continue the conversation around grief and diabetes! Listen to the latest episode of the Type 1 In Midlife podcast featuring Jessica Dudzinski. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate, leave a 5-star review, and subscribe!


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