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Diagnosis and Stages of Grief

Updated: Feb 3

After the long journey of medical appointments, bloodwork, and tests, you finally have an answer. But with diagnosis in hand, mixed emotions may arise. Grappling with a chronic illness diagnosis can lead to a grieving process, even without death. The mind struggles accepting this new reality and loss of prior health. The stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance - may cycle through as you process the emotions. For some, achieving acceptance stretches out over time; for others, it comes more readily. But grieving is common after life-changing diagnoses. As a patient or caregiver, be gentle with yourself on this journey. Though the road may feel lonely, you do not walk it alone.




  1. Denial - When first diagnosed with a serious illness, it is natural to question the diagnosis and resist believing the news. Denial and doubt are common reactions, as facing a life-altering diagnosis can raise many difficult questions. Yet while denial may provide temporary relief, moving toward acceptance is essential for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Though it may not feel this way now, accepting your diagnosis will allow you to focus your energy on the treatment journey ahead. With time and support, you can find peace of mind. Though the road may be challenging, you do not have to walk it alone. There are many trained professionals who can help guide you through this process - you need only reach out.

  2. Anger - Anger and frustration are common responses to a diagnosis. Patients may feel upset with medical providers who took too long to reach a conclusion or who simply stated the diagnosis without offering adequate guidance. Caregivers, especially parents of children with chronic illnesses, often turn those feelings inward. They berate themselves for not recognizing the symptoms sooner. But it's unfair to place blame on one's shoulders. Even highly trained professionals failed to identify the condition in a timely manner, so how could parents and other caregivers reasonably be expected to do so? The journey to a diagnosis is complex. While anger is understandable, try not to become mired in self-criticism. Focus instead on moving forward with compassion and determination.

  3. Bargaining - When diagnosed with a chronic illness, it's natural to bargain and wonder if an occasional slip-up could really do harm. Let's use celiac disease as an example; we must be resolute - even small amounts of gluten can cause serious damage. Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is the only treatment. I know it's tough to say goodbye to foods you love. But your health and well-being are at stake. Approach this new way of eating as an opportunity, not a restriction. Discover new foods that nourish you and make you feel your best. With an open mindset and commitment to self-care, you can thrive gluten-free. This diagnosis is not a limit on your life, but a chance to build an empowered relationship with food and your body.

  4. Depression - Receiving a diagnosis of any chronic illness can understandably lead to feelings of "why me?" It's completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the changes your diagnosis brings. The good news is that knowledge is power. As you learn more about your illness and how to manage it, you'll gain tools to not just cope but thrive. Though the path forward may feel daunting now, have faith that it does get better. Arm yourself with information, utilize available resources, and take it one step at a time. You've got this!

  5. Acceptance - Take a deep breath and embrace your diagnosis. This journey may be quick or slow, but you'll get there. When you make peace with your current abilities, you'll see that life is still full of possibilities. What matters most is focusing on what you can do, not what you can't. Every day presents opportunities to find joy, purpose and connection. With an open mindset and positive spirit, limitations start to fade. You have so much to offer the world just as you are.


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