The Five Stages Of Grief
So you are diagnosed with COPD. It’s a chronic disease that slowly progresses over time. It’s normal for a diagnosis of a chronic disease to cause you some grief. This is often measured by the five stages of grief. What are they? And what do they mean for you? Here’s what to know.
What are the five stages of grief?
Of all the stages, I think this is the reason so many people with COPD are undiagnosed. Here, you brush your symptoms off to aging. You brush them off as trivial. You deny that you need to make changes. You refuse to quit smoking. Moreover, you may even refuse to admit that smoking is harmful. You refuse to quit your job where you're inhaling something that may contribute to lung diseases.
You refuse to see doctors. If you do, you refuse to admit you are sick. You refuse treatment. You refuse to take medicine. You may need oxygen, but you refuse to wear it. You may be diagnosed with sleep apnea, but you refuse to wear your CPAP. Overall, you insist you are fine.
Since the disease is so slow to progress, this stage may last for many years. You may continue to deny your symptoms until they force you to stop. It may continue until you have a flare-up and end up in a hospital. And even then you may continue to deny it.
So, you can see the importance of physicians recognizing this first stage. The earlier this is recognized and treated, the earlier treatment can begin. This may be integral to living well and living longer for many years even with a diagnosis of COPD.
You feel like punching the doctor who gave you the diagnosis. You feel like punching the walls. You are upset with yourself that you smoked. You are upset with yourself for not wearing a mask at your work. You are upset at your boss for not having cleaner air. You are upset at the government for not passing more clean air regulations. You are upset at your loved ones for not encouraging you to make changes.
Here you ask questions like, “What if I never smoked?” Or, you ask, “What if I never had that job.” You ask, “What if I had listened when I was told to make such and such a change.” You may think things like, “Sure I’m hospitalized for a flare-up, but I’m going to get back to the way things were.”
You feel sad that you have COPD. You worry about how long you will live. You worry about your friends and family members. You worry about how you are going to pay for doctor’s visits and medicine.
Finally, you come to terms with the situation. You realize that you have COPD. You understand that there are treatments for it. You can do it! You educate yourself. You learn as much as you can about COPD. You join communities like ours. You work with your doctor to develop a COPD action plan. You work with your doctor to find what treatments work best for you. You talk to your family and friends about it. You take your medicine. You wear your oxygen. You use your CPAP or BiPAP every night if they are recommended by your doctor.
You do this all because you now understand you can live a quality life for a long time if you work with a doctor and are compliant with the treatment regimen.
It’s normal to feel grief.
COPD slowly progresses over time. For this reason, people with COPD can live quality lives for a long time. Even better, with early diagnosis and treatment, you can live even better and longer. Yet, there will certainly be setbacks along the way. This may cause some of these stages to last a long time. It may cause people with COPD to skip steps, or to go back and forth between steps. Other than acceptance, they are all impediments. How best to diagnose and motivate COPDers to accept treatment is something researchers continue to study.
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