Wednesday, June 26, 2019

5 Steps to Take When Coping with Grief and Chronic Illness

grieving woman

This is a Guest Post by Elise

There are good days and there are bad days when dealing with a chronic illness. The fact is that you just don't know what will happen tomorrow, or even an hour from now. But, having a chronic illness or losing a friend to one does not mean there is nothing you can do to manage the pain and grief. "Manage" is the key word. How do you manage your grief?

What is Grief?

Grief is a natural emotional response to loss, brought on by loss. Small or significant, it is okay to grieve and for most people the more significant the loss the more intense your grief. How you grieve and how long is up to who you are. Factors such as your personality, life experiences, faith and your coping mechanisms all play a role.

How to Cope with Grief

Coping with grief can be difficult, so here are five first steps to take when you have a chronic illness or are dealing with the loss of a friend who you've lost from a chronic illness.

  • Express your Feelings
If you don't express your feelings, you are bottling those feelings in and possibly doing yourself an injustice. This doesn't mean you need to cry on the shoulder of a stranger when sad or yell at your colleagues when angry, but, it is okay to tell a friend, family member, or coworker ho you are feeling, that you need the comfort of someone near you, or to be left alone for some time.

  • Take Care of Your Health
Turning away from your health could mean no longer exercising, eating poorly, or losing routine in your life. Both physical and mental health can be at risk during your grieving process, so taking time to focus on your health is important. One way to start is by creating a nighttime routine such as a bath or shower, prepping your clothes for the next day and reading a book to fall asleep. Adding small things such as essential oils, calming music or even adding breathing and meditation to your routine are great ways to relax your body and mind.

  • Understand the Inevitability of Bad Days
Bad days are going to happen. You may wake from a restless night, be plagued with difficult thoughts, or you're just having a bad day. All of these are legitimate, and when grieving you will inevitably have difficult days. Understanding that these days will occur will not make your grief fall to the wayside, but you will know that tomorrow may be better.

  • Don't Forget - Moving on Doesn't Mean You Must Forget
A common myth about grief is that if you try to move on you must forget. If you lost a friend, it means you should put thoughts of that friend aside. If you are coping with a chronic illness this might mean you should forget the good times before your illness. This simply is not true. There is room in us to both manage the grief as well as remember our loss.

  • Seek out Support
Support groups, therapy and confiding in someone you trust are not easy to do for many people. When you grieve these can be even more difficult. However, knowing that support is available to you is important. Understanding that you are not the only one (often the case when grieving) can be encouraging and help you cope with your emotions and pain.

Grief will affect everyone at some point in their life, but when dealing with a chronic disease, yours or that of a loved one, your grief can take longer to manage. However, it is important to know that there are coping solutions to help you keep yourself moving forward.

Elise is a freelance writer located in North Carolina that regularly covers health and wellness topics for Mattress Advisor. She is especially passionate about understanding and researching mental health and loves to educate others on the topic through her writing.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Cruising to Hawaii and Beyond

palm trees on beach

My parents and I decided to embark upon another cruise for this year's family vacation - this time to Hawaii and British Columbia.

Lahaina, Maui
My mother and I both have Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome - she has an ileostomy whereas I have a straight pull thru. Vacations and activities are always a concern as we require daily medications to help us function and my mother requires to change her ostomy appliance approximately every 4 days. On our last vacation to Florida, my mother required almost daily ostomy changes due to leaks and she almost ran out of appliances. She even had to change her ostomy appliance while in the airport on our way home! She was blessed though without any issues with her ostomy appliance this trip even though she packed 14 changes for our 11 night cruise just to be on the safe side. I took my Lomotil medication daily to help slow my Short Bowel Syndrome to allow me to participate in activities. Unfortunately, Lomotil irritates my intestinal ulcers causing bleeding and risk of lower hemoglobin at a faster rate thereby shortening the length in-between iron infusions and the effectiveness of my daily iron medication. I also have to be mindful of my Lomotil because it can increase my risk of intestinal blockages. My chronic nausea was exacerbated by tour buses and the rocking of the cruise ship at times but overall remained manageable.

We flew into Honolulu on the island of Oahu and spent three days there before the ship left for the

hawaiin ocean
Hanauma Bay
island of Maui. We spent an extra night in Oahu to allow us time to travel to Waikiki so that I could obtain another Hard Rock Café shirt for my collection. While in Waikiki, we enjoyed a seafood dinner on the beach at Hula Grill. While roaming around Waikiki we watched street performers sing and dance. The following day we spent the morning at Pearl Harbor to visit the memorials and museums there before embarking upon the cruise ship. On our third day we went on an island tour that took us to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Hanauma Bay, and Halona Beach Cove and Blowhole.

Me doing IFly
The next day was a sea day and we cruised by the Napali Coast on Kauai - a sacred place to Hawaiians with a mountainous shoreline. While at sea my mother and I participated in IFly Indoor Skydiving on the ship. We were both nervous as we are not particularly thrill seekers but by the end of it we were glad we had the experience. One participant was in the tunnel with the instructor at a time and the instructor communicated through hand signals on what we needed to do in order to maintain stability in the air. He didn't let us float too high or too low and ultimately it was a fun experience. The ship also had a flowrider surf machine available at no additional cost to passengers but that was beyond my mother's and mine's interest level although it was enjoyable to watch others attempt and even succeed at the flowrider.

We arrived in Maui for two days allowing us time to attend a luau where we learned about and

water features
Maui Plantation
watched Hawaiian dances, clothing, and traditional Hawaiian foods. We roamed around Lahaina, Maui looking at local shops, restaurants, and museums. For our second day in Maui, we went on a tour taking us to the Maui Tropical Plantation where there were beautiful gardens and a restaurant with gift shop, Kepaniwai Park that showcased houses and gardens of various nationalities that have become a part of Hawaii, and McGregor Point and Hookipa Beach Park on the North Shore where we saw giant sea turtles on the beach and surfers amongst the waves.

hawaiian ocean
Victoria, British Columbia
We spent the next 5 days at sea making our way to Victoria, British Columbia. Once there we spotted whales, seals, sea lions, an otter and two bald eagles while on a whale watching tour before heading to Vancouver, British Columbia. On our way into Vancouver we passed under a bridge where we were greeted by onlookers and the media as our particular cruise ship was the largest ship to pass under this particular bridge and was the first time this particular cruise ship had done so. It was an exciting moment onboard as it seemed all 4,500 cruise passengers gathered on the upper decks to watch this moment. It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of all the other passengers and onlookers. We were allowed to disembark in Vancouver but decided not to go sight seeing as we had completed a tour of historic sites in Vancouver on our previous cruise to Alaska.

The next morning we easily made our way to the airport as taxis were waiting for us and we had a smooth flight home. I had always wanted to visit Hawaii and I'm grateful I had been able to share this experience with my parents.