Individuals with chronic pain may lack awareness that they are feeling grief. People who suffer from chronic pain may experience losses in several areas: comfort, sexual function, career, income, self-efficacy, cognitive function, intimacy, pride, joy, self-esteem, self-control, independence, mental health, hope, dignity, and certainty. Providers may overlook these patients biggest loss: themselves. While everyone copes in their own way and experiences their chronic pain condition uniquely, there are common feelings that most of us share: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief outlined in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, may help patients better understand what they are going through. Frontline providers can help patients better cope with the grief that often has no resolution by understating the limitations of their illness, listening and trying to understand what they are going through, looking for signs and completing a thorough psychosocial assessment, and organizing psychoeducational support groups and other interventions. The goal is to transform their experience into something livable and bearable.
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