Stunning. That’s how it feels when your doctor tells you that something is not what it should be. Doesn’t matter what it is; it’s scary.
Most people experience, in varying degrees, Kubler-Ross’s hierarchy of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I have been through this process three times so far in this lifetime and each time could recognize each stage. The stages are not necessarily in a set sequence as they are on the list; they overlap, impinge and regress like a tide.
Immediately, your focus is on yourself to the exclusion of all else. The Universe becomes very small, with you as a pinpoint in the center. This is how we cope with bad news: we exclude the extraneous. And that’s how it needs to be.
You might choose to immerse yourself in outside issues and thus ignore your own. Denial. Denial can be a powerful tool. It can also be foolish.
Concerns for family surface as we navigate into support systems and coping mechanisms. As the news and information sink it, some acceptance creeps in, a plan is put in place and perspective is gained.
Sacrifices may be necessary to deal with the situation; relinquishing a job, perhaps a house, car, or favored activities. That is how we hone down what is most important. Self-care must be high on the list; without self-care, we cannot care for ourselves much less others who are important to us.
Underlying the experience is uncertainty and fear of not just dying but the process of dying, no matter how serious the condition is, or is not.
Most of us are fortunate enough to have had times in life when we didn’t have to worry about our bodies. A body was a convenient vehicle for who we were and how we moved around. Sometimes parts were broken, sometimes some minute organism made itself at home and caused problems. Each time, a challenge had to be faced.
The aging process brings new challenges as body parts start to wear out, and more care has to be taken to preserve normal bodily functions. The body can no longer be taken for granted; it has to be tended and cared for. Which, given its past history, seems to be a nuisance. That’s when we realize how easy it was to be young, a fact we had not noticed at the time.
Aging also brings perspective; if we die soon, our lives are not so foreshortened as when we were younger. We may be better able to prioritize what is important in our lives and how we will treat those priorities. Some young people can do this without the aging process.
A threatening life situation can bring clarity. We may see things that need to change; we may recognize what we need to eliminate from our lives; we may see beauty where it was not obvious before.
See page 79 in Finding The Tiger, A Coming of Age: What Will I Do Until the End of My Life?
Not the beast it appears to be, this pig is a pet!