Grieving Over Diabetes………Does it Go Away?

griefI remember hearing the incredible Dr. William Plonosky speak and when discussing diabetes and depression he stated that he would be a bit worried if someone was diagnosed with diabetes AND WAS NOT feeling any depression.  That always stuck with me.  Recently I saw a FB posting about grieving; when grieving should stop over the diagnosis of a child with diabetes.

Grieving.  Depression.  Two very powerful words somehow connected and yet, two completely different types of processing that we faced when our children became diagnosed.

Two things I cannot compare are that number one; I have not been diagnosed with diabetes and surely what I feel as a parent is different from what someone WITH diabetes would feel.  Number two; is the word grieving.  When I think of the word I’m immediately faced with those who lost a child to this disease; they can grieve, what right do I have to grieve?

So I immediately know that there are varying definitions of the grieving process.  Sure we go through some of the levels of grieving; denial, anger, depression, accept (and some add bargaining in there) but as a comparative in my own life,  I would definitely say I went through a ‘level’ of the grieving process.

Jill still said it best when she stated, upon Rob’s diagnosis in 2009, that her anger is at the fact that another (Rob was our second child diagnosed) childhood was stolen.

It became clear to me at that point that we do grieve for what is lost.  But the other side of that realization is that we still have a lot more than what we lost.   It was realizing that point in my life that I started to turn the grieving process around .

As I have touched upon before, I suffered a huge loss of someone when I was younger.  The absolute pain of knowing that that someone would never be coming back was overwhelming.  Leaving the discussion of faith on seeing loved ones again aside for just a moment, the idea of not actually seeing this person again was a hurdle mountain-high in my life to come to grips in understanding.  It was huge.  My faith has my heart in the right place but for ‘the now’, a pain remains 32 years later. 

So for good or bad; I had a comparative in my life on the ‘grieving process’ with diabetes.  The bottom line is that my children are still here.  We experienced the pain of having some of the simple things being taken but it is a huge ‘light-turned-on’ thought process to fully understand what it is like to have diabetes come into your life and what it is to have someone you care deeply about leave forever.  Quite frankly, I would much rather of not had either.

I honestly do not think I ever experienced the denial of Kaitlyn and Rob’s diagnosis.  I knew exactly what we needed to do and that was to ’embrace it’ from the get-go.  There was only one way that diabetes was not going to win in our home and that was with knowledge.  I mean deep-rooted knowledge.  Not the, “I heard from so-and-so” type knowledge

Perhaps it is in my namesake (Thomas, look it up 🙂 ) that gives me doubt, but I have always needed to find out things for myself to fully learn.  I take very little at face value.  If you ask me about the grieving process pertaining to a diabetes diagnosis, I would share that knowledge is the ultimate equalizer.

And even at that understanding life can still be derailed.  Do I still have moments of sadness for the many reasons diabetes is in our children’s lives and can get us down?  Yes.  That aspect does not go away.  And quite frankly, it is a reminder for me that our work is not done.  My diabetes involvement pretty much has me at 24/7 but it pales in comparison to the 24/7 of our children’s experiences actually living with diabetes.  And until we can get rid of that feeling for them; we need to all keep doing what we need to do.

For them, for ourselves, for a cure, for better management, for helping others, for better education, for camps, for advocacy—-because at the end of the day if I can minimize just some of my grieving by trying to move the diabetes dial just one notch for good….it is one notch I have less time for grieving.  I’ll take that any day of the week.

I am a diabetes dad

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Others Do Not Go Through What We Do…..FEEL FREE to pass this on.

I saw a post on-line today that I thought I would address.   A mom wrote that she attended a Thanksgiving Day event at school and as much as the event was a lovely event she could not help but feel a bit sad as the others in the room certainly did not have a care in the world as she did having a child with diabetes.

First of all, we all certainly know that feeling.  It is a feeling that makes us wish we could have the life back we had before diabetes.   Where we were able to discuss things without thinking about the every day management in the lives of our kids. It is not fair that we have this burden and others do not, it just is not fair.  I know the mom who wrote the post and she is a great mom and she does a lot.

I learned something, the hard way, but I learned it none-the-less and I would like to share it.  It taught me a great deal about how to handle this feeling.  In a three-year time span we lost my dad, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, our daughter was in a head-on collision while the other party was on a cell phone, saw friends lose their children to both diabetes and by other means as well, and our second child was diagnosed with diabetes.  It was much to go through.

As we were going through all of this and we were in contact with many friends and relatives, I started to notice how many of our relatives and friends also go through crap in their lives.  Some stories were absolutely horrendous.

I started to really think about the many people I have come across in my life and here is what I have concluded.  I do not mean to sound rhetoric but the truth of the matter is life is just that…  Our diabetes is someone else’s cancer or someone elses bad marriage or someone else’s dealing with a child with a mental illness, another disease, or car accident that changed their lives forever.  Not better or worse….just life.

What I have actually concluded is that almost everyone in this world has been given something that is extremely unfair.  We see others who ‘seem’ like they are okay because we do not see them grabbing a diabetes bag, or checking their child’s blood sugar or running for an orange juice……..but know this……..almost everyone is dealing with something that impacts their life greatly.

Now I know this thought does not make our thoughts go away but also know this; our children do incredible things and they do it with diabetes……..but so do we as parents.  Many times when I give a lecture people ask me if I am really that positive?  And I answer yes, I truly am.  My daughter and my son grab every bit of gusto out of life.  Could something happen to them that could derail their very lives?  You bet and I know that completely.

But more than that, Kaitlyn knows it and so does Rob.  But we all also know that their lives are as full as they can be and they do it with diabetes.  I saw a lecture recently by my good friend Jeff Hitchcock where he showed a graph that people with diabetes are now living their life span to the same as people without diabetes.  Read that sentence again.  Grasp it.  Understand it. 

Now some parents have lost their children to diabetes and it is that point that throws cold water on the entire thought process.  Life has been particularly cruel to them as life has been  to anyone who has lost a child.  I know so many families that have had this happen but interesting enough not one of them was living a defeatist attitude toward diabetes in their lives before they lost their child.

They lived their lives fully and ‘BAM’ the pain becomes something I have never experienced nor would even think of stating I understand.  One can not just ‘go on’ after that point but life does just that, goes on.  The pain will never go away.  But each of these families will tell you that their lives with diabetes did not define their child when they were alive and they are doing everything in their power to make sure diabetes will not define them in death either.  Their courage astounds me to this day.  No less painful but they go forward shattered heart and all.  They teach us to do the same.

When I was at the UK I gave a quote that I just love and it is from Sir Winston Churchill who stated, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Isn’t that great?  When you start to feel down look at everything your children do WITH diabetes, start teaching yourself to celebrate that aspect of their lives.  They do not live with DIABETES, they LIVE with diabetes. 

I feel I owe it to those I know, who lost a child to this disease, to never allow myself or my kids  to get down.  We cannot do anything about diabetes coming into our lives but we most certainly can do something once it takes up residence.  We choose to ‘kick-its-ass every day.  Diabetes cannot win.

We all have good days and bad days and when the days are bad ones…..look at all that you and your child have done together…..I mean REALLY LOOK AT IT.  Know this, others do not indeed go through what we do, but many if they could, would choose to go through what we go through than what they have BEEN through,.  Diabetes cannot win in our lives…….we owe that to others who cannot say the same.

I am a diabetesdad.