Dealing With The Emotional Stress of Mesothelioma – I lost my father to mesothelioma in 1993. I sought emotional comfort from friends and loved ones, and I’ll never forget the first time I heard, “the first year is the worst year.”
An older family member said the words in an effort to console me. Such a well-intended sentiment filled my soul with dread. I sought comfort rather ineffectively, from external sources, rather than from within.
Grieving people often reach out to friends, family members and loved ones, searching for relief from the unbearable weight of a heavy heart. It seems the mission to relieve emotional pain is often filled with disappointment.
Embracing grief and finding ways to cope with loss is an empowering and deeply personal internal emotional process.
There is no universal “cure” for the difficult emotions such as sadness, yearning, guilt, anger and loneliness that we associate with loss.
Healing from loss is different for all those who experience it.
Grief in the Mesothelioma Community
Though most people associate it with death, grief doesn’t just arise upon the loss of a loved one.
Often, people in the mesothelioma community first face grief when they can no longer work because of the illness or because they must provide in-home care for a loved one facing cancer.
Overwhelming grief-related feelings affect many cancer patients and their families. These emotions feel invasive and unbearable at times.
Grief encompasses different types of loss, including:
- Loss of a financial or social lifestyle
- Inability to work because of illness
- Changing family roles
There is no quick fix for coping with grief. Managing the emotions that come with loss and changes in daily life requires significant emotional work.
Exploring elements of grief-related emotional work may make a person’s path toward healing — in some small way — a little less treacherous.
Outdated Concepts of Grief
While studying psychology in undergraduate school, I listened while professors lectured on linear concepts of grief that include stages in which a person experiences emotional responses to loss.
The concept of grief within the community of helping professionals is now understood as an individualized process.
We now understand that a person forges their own path toward healing. While we provide comfort along the way for a grieving person, coping with grief effectively is a uniquely personal journey.
There is no clearly defined map from loss to happiness or healing. There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one, lifestyle, or relationship.
It is likely more accurate to identify coping with grief as adaptive or maladaptive, or perhaps, helpful or unhelpful.
Though it is hard to imagine embracing a shattered heart and sorrowful mourning as “helpful,” it is progress in the process of healing from loss.