The Five Stages of Cancer Grief
By: Brandy (Korman) Haslam
During our Pink Ladies meeting last week, we had the opportunity to meet Lucy Zeigler, PRMA patient and certified professional counselor specializing in grief therapy.
Lucy went over some really great information for those going through a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. One of the things she discussed was the 5 stages of cancer grief—which really can be applied to grief of any kind.
The five commonly recognized stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Lucy says to keep in mind that not everyone experiences all of these stages or goes through them in a particular order. Even after someone has gone through all the stages she says, a person can still revert back to a previous stage.
The first stage—denial, is really a coping mechanism to help a person survive news that is difficult to handle. During this stage, Lucy mentioned that most people are overwhelmed with feelings of shock and are unable to grasp everything that just happened. Although some denial can be healthy, it may prevent someone from dealing effectively with issues that are important.
Anger is a stage that almost everyone goes through when dealing with grief. Questions like ‘why did this happen to me?’ or ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ are common. Surrounding yourself with friends and family and talking with others going through a similar situation can be helpful when overcoming anger.
Bargaining is also a stage that a lot of people face when dealing with grief. Thoughts of ‘if only I’d done this’ are common. Many people may try to bargain to prevent future losses by changing their lifestyle or even promising God that they will change their behavior in exchange for good health.
The fourth stage is sadness. Most people facing a cancer diagnosis are understandably saddened by the news which affects everything from mood, energy levels and sleep and eating habits. Seeking professional counseling during the grieving process may be beneficial for some people.
The last stage is acceptance of the cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t mean that a person has completely let go of their grief, but that they’ve accepted cancer as a part of their life. Although this is the last stage of cancer grief, Lucy says that a person can still revert back to other stages or skip some stages in the grieving process all together.
The final point that was made during our meeting was that even though all of our journeys are similar, no two are the same. We are all unique and have a voice in how our cancer diagnosis has affected our lives. Embrace what has been put in front of you—a path that you did not choose, but one that was chosen for you. You will get through this!