By Tammie Allegro
When I lost my mother eight years ago, I kept asking myself, "Why?" I knew better than to ask, "Why me?" That question was more about why anyone should have to suffer such a major tragedy in life. In my lifetime, I have lost a lot of really important people, but nothing compared with the loss of my mother. Her loss took me to a really dark and scary place for quite a while. I thought my universe was going to end. I couldn't imagine a time in my life when I would ever be able to enjoy anything. I was sure the heartbreak was going to prevent me from raising my children. How could I raise children with that anguish? But, with the love and support of family and friends and my own personal faith, I got through it. I found out that I was so much stronger than I had ever realized. The lessons learned during this time in my life fuel my resolve today.
Over the years, I have had several friends who have suffered similar losses. Most recently, my best friend lost her mother. She was under the care of hospice just like my mom, and I watched her struggle through many of the same challenges I experienced. I noticed that she would frequently lean on me and ask for advice, even though she had plenty of people offering her guidance. I quickly realized that she knew I understood what she was going through on a level that not many others could. I had words of wisdom to offer because I genuinely felt what she was feeling and knew what it would take for her to get through it.
Similar to a death in the family, being diagnosed with a chronic illness is life-altering. There is the feeling of being punched in the gut - knowing that you have to find a way to get through it, and not being sure what you are capable of. Typically, feelings of grief take over. First is usually denial, followed by fear and, eventually, hopeful acceptance. And like any loss, there is comfort in knowing you are not going through it alone. Somehow, you want people to know what you are going through, but you don't want them to have to suffer the same fate. Knowledge and personal experience can ease a lot of fear when shared. There is comfort in knowing that someone has survived and, better yet, thrived after a diagnosis. It gives you tremendous hope and courage that it is possible to do the same.
"Everything in life happens for a reason" was a statement I used to really dislike, But now I think there may be some truth in it. Sometimes the reasons we seek aren't revealed to us for a very long time. Often we have to suffer through many struggles before we gain understanding and perspective. For me, sharing what I learned from the passing of my mother has allowed me to honor her memory and make losing her a little easier to bear. This doesn't mean that I can stop someone else from hurting, but I can offer some encouragement and let them know that what they are going through is survivable.
Having places like Facebook and the IG Living blog provides great outlets for sharing experiences. I don't just share my experiences with friends. I share with my church congregation, as well as the readers here. I learn just as much from hearing about the experiences of our readers - so many have lived with chronic illness for years and have managed to accomplish great things.
The fact that you are reading this blog means you have either been diagnosed with a chronic illness or you are caring for someone who has. Either way, you have experiences that are unique and yet similar enough that they create a sense of community with others on a similar journey. How do you draw comfort from others, and also encourage those around you with your own life experiences?