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7 Tips for Navigating the Stages of Grief After a New Diagnosis

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by Elinor Hills


Jennifer Chesak

Fact Checked



by Elinor Hills


Jennifer Chesak

Fact Checked



Bezzy’s chronic condition community members understand firsthand what it’s like to grieve a new diagnosis.

Grief is universal, but it’s also a deeply personal experience. It can affect your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Sometimes grief is experienced in response to a relationship ending, losing a job, or the death of a loved one. Almost always, grief occurs because of a change to your life as you know it.

Receiving a new chronic condition diagnosis can be a big change.

The grief that accompanies a new diagnosis can feel like you’re mourning your “old life,” or the relationship you once had with your body.

It can feel like having to let go of a certain vision you’ve had for what your future would look like.

The stages of grief

While grief is something that everyone experiences at some point in their life, everyone grieves in their own way.

Some people find it helpful to think about grief in terms of stages. The most common theory about the stages of grief is based on research by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist.

Kübler-Ross proposed that there are five most commonly experienced stages of grief:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance

It’s important to remember that not everyone goes through all five stages of grief, and they may not be experienced in the same order.

You may pass through one stage very briefly, but find yourself in another stage for months, or years, at a time.

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7 community tips for coping with grief

Healthline’s chronic condition communities are filled with people who understand what it’s like to grieve a new diagnosis firsthand.

Members from the Bezzy T2D, Bezzy MS, Bezzy PsA, and Bezzy Migraine communities shared advice about navigating grief after receiving a chronic condition diagnosis.

Trust that it will get better

“Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you feel like your world is upside down. Believe me, it can be better if you’re willing to work at it.” — Peggy Feldt, Bezzy T2D community member

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Give yourself time to feel

“Take it slow. Let yourself digest this new life changing news before getting overwhelmed with everyone else’s advice.

You will need to have a strong attitude and a strong support team. Ask questions when you want to, but remember, everyone is different. Some have bad symptoms, some have mild ones. Not everyone’s experience is the same.

Let yourself feel the emotions you feel. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re mad, be mad. After all, it’s a life changing thing to hear.

Know that you are not alone. It can be scary, but you are strong.” — Hilary Jackson, Bezzy MS community member

Keep moving forward

“Acceptance is a practice that has helped me with many things over the years. I say the serenity prayer daily.

I have accepted my migraine diagnosis, but I am still fighting to get my life back.

It’s a process, but I am trying to keep moving forward and keep a sense of humor.” — Lori L., Bezzy Migraine community member

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Remember that everyone navigates grief differently

“I was diagnosed last year and have just recently come to acceptance. I do still have times of anxiety and depression. Remember you aren’t alone and you will get there.

Everyone gets there in their own way. I was only able to get there through my faith in God and daily prayer. You’ll find what works for you.

Remember that darkness doesn’t last forever and that you are allowed to grieve this new diagnosis in your life.” — Meagan Millar, Bezzy MS community member

Treat yourself with kindness and patience

“Grief is such an important topic that I missed after my diagnosis. I had an unsupportive environment surrounding me, so instead of grieving, acknowledging the changes, I was ‘pushing through.’

I am resilient and I am strong, but I am still tired and angry.

I am tired of pushing through the pain… I am angry that I spent 20 years not acknowledging my body’s changes. I am grieving now.

I’m actively grieving, and things are changing for me and my mindset.

I have ‘accepted’ that I am disabled. I am learning to accept that I have to use aids to move around. I’m learning to accept help from people, and I am learning to love myself.” — Bairbre, Bezzy PsA community member

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Lean on the support of loved ones

“The hardest part for me was the acceptance that I couldn’t do the things that I loved doing before. My problems were gradual, starting at age 53.

As a nurse, I always worked more than one job because I loved it. I had to quit my full-time job because of bilateral knee pain and wrist pain.

Five years later I was in a wheelchair because of low back involvement with bilateral sciatic pain. That is when I became depressed, crying and grieving for my old life.

I have a very supportive family and now I’m in acceptance. As with most grief, I have days when the pain and limitations overwhelm me, but my husband just tells me to relax for the day, he cooks, and we go to a happy place.” — Charlotte Giles, Bezzy PsA community member

Focus on what you can control

“Acceptance to me now is like unicorn hunting: I’m not sure my expectations are even right, or if my directions are off.

Maybe acceptance for me is acceptance that I will always be grieving, though the stages become less intense and easier to deal with.

Instead of chasing unicorns, maybe I should focus on the tools and skills I need to manage the grief itself as it comes.” — Roberta Lust, Bezzy Migraine community member

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The bottom line

Receiving a new chronic condition diagnosis can be overwhelming, frightening, and confusing. It’s common to experience some degree of grief.

If you’re experiencing grief due to a chronic condition diagnosis, the most important thing to remember is that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

It’s also important to know that you’re not alone. Talking with people who have been in your shoes can help.

Bezzy is here to help you through every stage of grief — and every stage of life with a chronic condition.

Article originally appeared on July 22, 2021 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last medically reviewed on July 23, 2021.

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