The Stages of Grief with COPD

Poor mama. Getting through the stages of grief with COPD was hard on her. She had such an infectious laugh. Her heart was so full that it seemed like her emotions were always right on the surface. What that meant, was that when it was time to go through the experience of diagnosis, she felt it full on. It was hard on all of us because she would reach out one day and withdraw the next. We never knew how life was going to be with her, or how long this stage of grief would last.

The Stages of Grief with COPD


Of course, shock was the first thing to hit. Even after the doctor called it on her visit to find out why she was having lung pain, we just talked about everything BUT pulmonary illness. At first, mom and I didn’t tell my siblings, or anyone else. She was frozen, and sometimes that’s a good place to be when your mind is taking in too much information at once.


She slipped into denial one day and I didn’t even realize it had happened. First, she talked with dad, and then the other kids about it. Then she suddenly pronounced that the doctors didn’t know what they were talking about. She read online that a lot of people lived for years with COPD and didn’t need any medicines. Whatever, mom.... We let it go. She seemed especially fragile during this stage. It was a time when she stayed super busy with a lot of hobbies and projects.


It came down like a sledgehammer. When it hit, it went in every direction. She started off angry at herself. That hurt the most. I always encouraged her to forgive herself because she didn’t really know the damage that smoking would do. When she started, the medical evidence was not there at all. Once she began to research it, she actually grew angry with tobacco companies. She talked a lot about the accountability that they had in using their greed to lure people into addiction.


Once she started moving into the bargaining phase, we had our mom back. She made a deal with herself, and God, that she was going to live every moment to the fullest. Her interest in cooking, and eating healthy came back. She revived her favorite hobby of painting. This time she moved toward ceramics and also porcelain dolls. She had a table where something fun was being worked on all the time.


I knew that mom had found acceptance when she told me that she was going to cut back on cigarettes. She told everyone in the family who smoked that she didn’t want smoke around her as much. She even began to encourage those of us who smoked, to quit. She began to read more about how to help herself reduce anxiety and wanted us all to hear about the changes she was making.

Do you think the whole family system moves through those stages? I do. We had our separate stages to go through. Mom moved back and forth in some stages, but she modeled acceptance for all of us from then on. Her joy filled the home again and she found a place of peace during the stages of grief with COPD.

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