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Mourning the Death of Your Previous Life – Part 2

When you are in mourning for the life you’ve lost to COPD, denial, disbelief and grief are the easiest emotions to deal with, but they can lead to the stronger emotions.
The emotions that can make or break your chances of having a successful COPD life. If you get hung up on emotions like anger, blame, or depression you’ll never successfully accept the loss of your old life. Like I said in Part 1 you are justified in your grief over losing the life you once knew to COPD but in order to make a new life, first you have to deal with and finally say goodbye to the life you’ve lost never to be regained. So let’s start dealing with the last of our emotions so we can move on to accepting our new COPD life and the hope and strength gained from that acceptance.

Anger and Blame
When diagnosed with COPD the anger and blame game begins. I put these two together because it seems whomever/whatever we blame are the ones/things we direct our anger at. COPDers can get angry at their doctor, the cigarette companies, themselves, their parents, their belief system or their God. When those who have never smoked hear from their doctor they have COPD not only can they go into deep denial but become angry at and blame the doctor for doing their test wrong. After all they never smoked how could they have a smoker’s disease? They have yet to learn that COPD is more than a smoker’s disease – it is an anybody’s disease. Many COPDers experience anger/blame and they direct these emotions at the perceived source of their COPD. Either their parents for giving them a bad gene or were smokers and exposed them to secondhand smoke, a spouse that smokes, their work environment, tobacco companies, the government.

No matter what you’re angry at, you must remember to control that anger because many times you let your anger put a strain on or destroy relationships. The frustration we feel when we can’t complete a simple task causes anger/blame. A few times I’ve gotten so frustrated over my inability to open a jar I flung it across the room in anger, said a few curse words as if it’s the jars fault. After which I stand there staring at the mess I just made angrier and cursing at myself because I know I can’t clean it up. There are those that blame and get extremely angry at fate/higher power/God. How many times have you looked up and asked why me? Why me? Many of you have lost your faith, hope, and belief in life in general because of anger and blame. To my way of thinking anger and blame are two destructive emotions that serve no useful purpose. Being angry at or blaming someone or something for your COPD doesn’t change the fact that you have it, nor will it make it go away. No matter how angry you become or how many people you blame, the only thing that happens is you become stressed and depressed.

To help you get past the anger and blame you need to put it into perspective with something else along the same lines as COPD. One example: diabetes is another chronic illness that’s incurable. Now if you got a diagnosis of diabetes, would you blame your parents, your self, or your spouse because your parents fed you pre-sweetened cereal and let you have too much candy when you were younger? Would you blame yourself for drinking all that pop/soda and eating a lot of sugary treats as a teen?

If you have a stroke/heart attack are you going to blame your spouse, or children for causing it due to them causing you stress? If you get skin cancer, are you going to blame and be angry at your parents for taking you to the beach/pool too many times exposing you to the sun’s harmful rays?

I could go on with several other examples but I know you got the idea. I’d bet you said no to every one of those questions I asked. If you did say no then why are you so angry at and blame those same people for your having COPD? The unhappy truth is you’re just one of the unlucky ones. The best we can do is get past the anger/blame and come to terms with the hand we’ve been dealt (no matter how unfair you think it is), and do the best we can to have a long and happy life with COPD.

Hanging onto your anger/blame will only cause feelings of “regret”, “what if”, “why me”, and depression. All of which have a very negative effect on our COPD. You must learn to accept the facts sometimes. Bad things happen and there is nothing you can do to change or stop it from happening. So let go of the anger/blame and move on. Your outlook, relationships, and COPD will be a lot better when you make peace with those emotions.

Depression
Many COPDers become depressed when they realize how serious and life-changing COPD is, and the effect it is/will have on their life. To feel depression for a short period of time is to be expected but don’t let yourself get stuck in that mode. Depression has a very negative effect on COPD. Depression magnifies the feeling of the anger, blame, guilt, worthlessness, self-pity, fear, feeling of being alone, and that no one understands or wants to be around you. When you fall into the depths of depression it could be because you were unable to come to terms with the other emotions. Being engulfed by a feeling of hopelessness is not a good state of mind for anyone to live with. When you become depressed you tend to dwell on things you’ve lost, the life you’ve lost. Those of us who have had COPD for a long time know the effects it can have on the body, lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, no energy. Add depression into the mix and you also have crying spells, periods when you just isolate yourself from the world and even thoughts of suicide could enter the picture. Once you fall into depression you need to pick yourself up and get out of it as quickly as possible. You need to do whatever it takes to get out of that state of despair and back to a life of optimism and hope. No matter what terrible things you’ve heard about COPD, there’s hope that you will see a cure for COPD in your lifetime.

Coping with depression isn’t easy but, staying positive, getting a good support system, (getting the negative ones out of/or distance yourself from them), staying strong & never losing hope will help you come to terms with your depression. Find something you can enjoy every day. Trying to manage the parts of your life that you can control is a big help in adjusting to your new COPD life. You’ll never be able to control all aspects of your disease, but you can choose to eat healthy meals, take your meds and other treatments as prescribed, exercise, and do as much as you condition allows. Keeping a journal often helps you see how COPD is affecting you and gives you an idea of ways you can improve your life. Remember it is ok to cry, it’s a good release. I know I always feel better after a good cry. Just don’t get stuck in the poor me crying mood. It only leads to more depression. Acknowledging and accepting the fact your life will never be the same, and finding COPD groups in which other people are having the same feelings and can relate to what you’re going through is a must. Seek professional help if feelings of depression become overwhelming or long lasting.

Acceptance and Hope
The ones that are most successful in living with COPD are those that have finally accepted the limitation COPD has put on them and created a new life around those limitations. Once you get rid of all the negative emotions you’ll find that you overall feel better. Most of the stress (caused by the negative emotions), is gone and your outlook on life is brighter and more hopeful. Longtime COPDers like myself have a positive attitude, stay strong, and never give up hope. No matter what the doctors or anyone else says, no one is born with an expiration date stamp on our bottoms. COPD may be progressive and incurable at this time. However, that doesn’t mean it needs to progress quickly or that there will not be a time when it will be curable.

According to the doctors I should be dead. The first time I was told I was at death’s door was 13 years ago, the second time was 8 years ago. I’ve been on and off Hospice, I’m maxed out on all medicines and treatments, yet I still live alone and manage quite well. I do have a good support system, I have never had anyone in my family or any of my friends ever complain or give me an excuse about doing something I asked them to do for me. I’ve even had my granddaughter send their boyfriends over to help me out if they couldn’t and my step daughter Susan calls me every day to see if I need anything that she or my grandsons can do for me. The oldest of my grandchildren are in their 20s. Now they remember my life before I became sick. They remember the camping, swimming, the fishing, hiking, and coming to grandma’s every weekend cooking and doing crafts. The younger ones only remember me the way I am now from the time they can remember since I’ve been on oxygen for 17 years. The reason I’m telling you all this is to let you know that with acceptance and hope comes strength. With that strength and my belief in God a good life with COPD is doable.

You need to find ways to adjust to your new COPD life and in doing so you’ll realize that you can do more than you thought possible. Life doesn’t end because you have COPD, so come to terms with your grief for the past cannot be changed, to continue mourning brings only stress and depression. Stop worrying about and dreading the future and things that may never happen, it only brings fear and anxiety. Stop dwelling on your lost life, it is gone. Start anticipating the future with hope and start enjoying the presence.

I may have COPD, a progressive, incurable disease with physical limitations, but I’m more than my COPD. I’m still the person I was before being diagnosed, and SO ARE YOU. Time to put the grief & mourning behind you and look toward your future with optimism. Breathe deep and easy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • ebrunson6
    4 months ago

    Wow, just read part 2. Once again, brilliant description. Depression, is my number one enemy. I am 56 and have lived with clinical depression for 35 yrs. It is an evil disease by itself. Ad COPD and you realize acceptance must be the key. (at least for me). Thank you for the warm welcome into this community.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi again, ebrunson6 and thanks for your post. I’m glad to hear part 2 of this article resonated with you. I remember you posted that you also were favorable to the part 1 of this article by the late Mary Ultes as well. We’re glad to have you as part of our online community. You are always welcome here! Leon (site moderator)

  • PhylissD
    1 year ago

    Thanks for opening up about your journey. I have been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride since my diagnosis about 18 months ago. At first I was in denial and then went into a poor me mode. Why did I get this after I quit smoking? It wasn’t fair. Shortly after I was angry at myself for having smoked all those years. Later I became depressed because I must have inherited bad genes. My grandmother had COP D emphysema.
    It is still a process for me. Today I am grateful for the things I can do, for my family, friends, let’s and my healthcare team. And w hole O am new to copd.net, I am extremely grateful for all the info and for all those who share their stories and knowledge.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi PhylissD – try not to be too hard on yourself. My suggestion would be to try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and keep a good attitude. We’re glad to have you as a member of our online community. You are always welcome here! Leon (site moderator)

  • PhylissD
    1 year ago

    Thank you Leon. Lately I have been focusing on the positive. I have a tendency to dwell on the past, but I have been applying the “Live in the Now” mantra as well as “One day at a time”, and “Count your blessings” .
    I’m not always down, but sometimes I need a gentle nudge.

  • Bonnie
    1 year ago

    Mary,
    Thank you for your message. I am learning to turn to God faster than I did before. But in reality, He’s he only source of hope there is. My hope is based on His promises, His touching of my heart, and the results I see in myself and those around me.

    May I ask, Mary, what kind of equipment you use, and what is the dosage you’re on? The portable I am using, the Inogen G2, goes only to Setting 6 (which is not LPM but a measurement of each puff), and on that setting, if I’m walking, I can go down to the 80s. So I have to walk and rest, walk and rest, and while I hope to build up stamina, it is now very difficult to get into a car, when my saturation will go sometimes as low as 79. The only alternative is a HUGE machine, the SeQual Eclipse, which has continuous 3 LPM continuous flow. Do you use a pulse flow machine? I keep thinking that maybe I just don’t have the right equipment, but from what I see online, what I have is the best there is that is not HUGE.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Bonnie and thanks for your post and questions for Mary. I’m sorry to tell you that sadly, Mary has passed away. But she did leave quite a legacy for us here on COPD.net. She lived life well, even with her COPD! We all miss her…
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Bonnie
    3 years ago

    You wrote: ” Stop dwelling on your lost life, it is gone. Start anticipating the future with hope and start enjoying the presence.”

    I read it as Presence, and started to pray. That and lorazepam is making me feel a little bit better. I know you meant “present.”

  • Mary Ultes author
    3 years ago

    Hi Bonnie, It takes me awhile to get back to you as I get my notification of a comment by e-mail & I only check my e-mail it once a day. The word presence & present can be interchangeable & in my writing was meant to let the reader know they should live in both their present & God’s presence. I’m glad my word got you to pray & fell a little better.

    God & prayer are a big part of my life & handling of my COPD. When I get SOB I say the Our Father as I purse-lip breathe. Keep me clam & I catch my breath faster. I do use xanax if I have a panic attack, but I try to stick with prayer. Meditation & prayer are good ways to help with anxiety & depression.

    I read you comment on part one & I think you should have call your church & request a pastoral visitor. If at all possibly go back to church. The fellowship of the congregation will be of help in your loneliness & be a good support system for you.

    Stop drinking so much coffee it add to your anxiety & depression. I drink only one cup a day, in the morning & it is decaf.I use to drink all day long, a cup of coffee in one hand & a cigarette in the other. Now that I’v stop doing both I breather a lot better, my anxiety is in check, & life is a lot better. If you are going to drink coffee make it caffeine free.Caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness, trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, breathlessness non of which are good if you have COPD.

    I live alone too, but get out as much as I can. I do have family that live near me. I can call on then anytime, but I like getting out on my own. If you can get out,& have a senior center near you go visit it, make friends & soon you’ll have a support system. If you can’t get out see if your church has volunteers that do home visits & have one or more over for a chat. Not in a pastoral way but, as a friend. Someone to just talk to & maybe get you out for lunch or to the park. I like to drive to the park & just set in my van & watch the kids play. Doing is the best way to get out of depression & that poor me trap so many COPDers get into. By doing I mean getting out, helping other, paint a picture, write a poem, get on Facebook, play some games, visit the COPD group,(you will get a lot of support from them), do anything that will let you know that you life is not over.You just need to learn to grab it & live everyday God gives you in the best way you can & be thankful for the fact that day may be the day that a cure is found for COPD. Breathe deep & easy Mary

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