Grieving can and often does involve suffering, sorrow, sadness, hurt, depression, a feeling of affliction, and more. Grief is most commonly related to and thereby put into a category of death and dying. However, grief covers so much more than our expression over the loss of a loved one.
I was reading a verse from Nehemiah 8:10 which says, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.“ Grieving can be an every day part of life for someone with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s disease. The first occasion to experience grief is upon diagnosis. You realize that from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same. There was no physical death, but eventually you realize that life from that day forward will be looked upon differently. Some days will be looked upon with grief in the form of sadness and sorrow while others will be met with smiles and laughter. Our path will not have necessarily changed, but we will face it with different emotions.
People who live with a chronic illness can be easily upset with life if they feel they’ve been dealt a hand they don’t deserve or refuse to accept. This is a form of grieving in the way of anger and of asking why. Why me? Why this? Why now? (As pondered in the justified mind of a Young/Early Onset Parkinson’s patient.) The why’s of life can leave a person grief-stricken, as they can be hard to make much sense out of and/or hard to understand, if not impossible. This can often lead to a deep sadness or depression and we’ve learned that depression is one part of the whole picture that patients often have to deal with, (It is wise to seek treatment if you are in this stage of grief.) You may be waiting for a good day to come and, if you’re fighting depression along with all the other challenges PD has to offer, that good day may not come.
Affliction comes in several different ways through Parkinson’s disease. Pain, tremors, lack of balance, difficulty swallowing – the list goes on and on. Each day we encounter different ‘tests’ this disease seems to constantly give. Will you lost your balance and actually fall this time? Will the tremors cause you to withdraw from the social activity you scheduled for the day? Will the pain rob you of doing what you love? Will going out to lunch embarrass you should you begin one your choking spells? The list of afflictions doesn’t end there. We can feel slightly pricked or punched hard in the gut, depending on the severity of the test. It’s a state of misery that leaves you feeling helpless, sometimes hopeless and hopeless is such a dark place to be.
There is hope. I started this out with a verse that I had read today. ‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ It’s not always easy to not settle in with grief as our companion. Life as we once knew it has changed and some days have been replaced with deep sorrow over what we have lost or may lose. Anticipation has been replaced with anxiousness and fear. Fear of the ‘what ifs’. Borrowing trouble from tomorrow. That’s what the’what-ifs’ are made of. Tomorrow’s un-guaranteed trouble.
Instead of what-iffing ourselves into depression and sorrow, let’s learn to allow the joy that comes from the Lord to be our strength. Let’s replace sadness with hope, sorrow with thanksgiving, grief in its entirety with trust. His joy will build us up through this trial of life called Parkinson’s disease and keep us from falling into the abyss. And joy is so much better, don’t you think?