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Handbook for Mortals : Finding Meaning

Grief, Anger, and Loss

You are likely to experience many emotions as you recollect aspects of your life, think about accomplishments or disappointments, contemplate what lies ahead, and consider how illness affects who you are. Among the most powerful of these feelings are grief and anger. People with life-threatening illness have to confront their illness, their approaching death, and all of the loss they must face. Grief is a normal, human reaction to loss. Grief will take its time with you, and you must take time with your grief. Some days, it may feel like a tidal wave of emotion, threatening to overwhelm you and knock you off your feet; on other days, you may feel gently rocked on a calm sea.

You are likely sometimes to feel very angry at the universe, at God or fate, at your own body or its illness, and at your family and others whom you love. For people who have been taught to worship and revere God, or trust in His will, feelings of anger can be very upsetting. However, as Rabbi Earl Grollman has described it, "Don't worry. God can take it." Feeling angry is also a normal, human reaction to a life-threatening illness. You may feel that your spirit is subsumed by anger. Anger, like grief, can stay with you for a while, but watch for the ways to let it go.

At those times when anger is not the dominant emotion in your spiritual landscape, you can stop to consider spiritual questions. Your whole life is, of course, a spiritual journey, and it is as important to seek space and time for spiritual concerns as it is to seek the right treatment or therapy. Spirituality is an integral part of our lives, and you and your family can insist that caregivers and health care providers respect your spiritual needs, that they give you time to pray, meditate, reflect, and worship.

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