Grief/Loss + Crohn's
I experienced the loss of my beloved pet of nearly 16 years a few weeks ago. It's thrown me into a tailspin of grief and loss, all the while struggling to ensure my health doesn't spiral along with my heart. I thought some of what I was experiencing wasn't normal; that is, until I spoke with a friend who has an autoimmune disease and shared that when he lost his beloved dog, his grief manifested in such a severe autoimmune flare-up he had to take a six-month leave of absence from work. Having a disease that is affected by stress and anxiety can be a recipe for disaster during times of extreme grief and loss.
I've learned a few lessons already that I hope will help others in difficult times:
1. Set Alarm Reminders for Medication
Especially in the first week of deep grief, I was very absent-minded and overcome with brain fog from the sorrow. It's all too easy to forget taking medications during these rough days, but all the more important we make sure we do! I found that setting an alarm on my phone helped. I also put a week's worth of medication into a pillbox as a visual reminder and placed the pillbox where I would see it every morning.
2. Do Everything You Don't Want to Do!
Not hungry/thirsty? Don't feel like exercising? It's ok to experience normal surges in emotions that include lethargy, lack of interest in food, and indecisiveness. I allowed myself a week of truly rejecting anything and everything except for the bare minimum. I skipped breakfast and lunch and only ate dinner because my husband insisted. I stayed dehydrated. Denying myself regular meals and hydration only made me weaker and more emotional. I don't recommend it! Managing Crohn's requires balanced nutrition for our health and more water than most! Do what you need to do those first few days, but please make sure you soon start back taking care of yourself. Keep a food diary and ask a loved one to remind you to eat/drink water if need be.
3. Seek Help
Did you know headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, tight chest, and stomach aches are all normal symptoms of grief? Although I was prepared for the emotional/mental symptoms, I had not realized or anticipated the very real physical side effects. It's scary when you aren't fully aware of what's happening in your body, and when you add managing an autoimmune disease to the mix it can be downright dangerous to our health. Please seek help in dealing with your grief, whether meeting with a grief counselor, support group, or trusted circle of friends or loved ones. You don't have to do this alone!