1. Health

Coping With Grief - From Difficult Diagnoses to Medical Errors and Mistakes


Updated September 25, 2011

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Overview: Dealing and Coping With Grief - From Bad Diagnoses to Medical Mistakes

Life brings tragedies. Those tragedies may be health-related, family-related, job-related, friend-related, accident-related, or mistake-related -- they may be caused by any horrible experience that we must learn to cope with for a long time.

If you or a loved one have ever been diagnosed with a terminal or life-long, chronic disease, that may be a tragedy in your life. Hearing the words "cancer" or "Alzheimer's" or "diabetes" or "Parkinson's" or "heart disease" will mean you have not just physical coping to do, but mental and emotional anguish, too.

Medical mistakes and errors in healthcare create millions of new victims every year. People become debilitated for a short period, or a lifetime. Hundreds of thousands die. For those who have suffered from medical mistakes, or those whose loved ones are victims of malpractice, the results may be life-changing. They are tragedies, too.

How we cope with our tragedies, and their effects on the rest of our lives, defines how we live our lives from that moment on. The effects may be a combination of physical, mental and emotional.

Sometimes the way to get past them is very clear. For example, ongoing treatment (like taking a drug) may kill a hospital acquired infection. Other times, they are less clear because of unknown prognoses. In all cases, there will be mental and emotional effects we must deal with for ourselves and for our loved ones, too.

Some of us wonder whether we are "normal." Coping becomes something that seems impossible to some, and a quest for others. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, or if your quality of life has been destroyed by a medical error, how can you get past the anguish and grief? And how are you supposed to cope?

You may be surprised to learn that there are actually guidelines to help you understand and get through the grieving process, setting the stage to help you begin coping, too.

The Five Stages of Grief were developed and described by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 in her book, On Death and Dying. Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are called the Kubler-Ross Model and are sometimes referred to as DABDA.

Before we look at the model, we'll look at the "rules" that go along with them so that as you begin to understand each stage, you'll better be able to determine where you are within them and what you have to look forward to if you have a tragedy or a difficult diagnosis to cope with.

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