(Continued from Warning: May Contain Traces of Grief.)
Food allergies come with many challenges. Learning a new way to cook, reading labels, navigating restaurant menus, social situations, and schools - all of these are difficult. But the most difficult part of all is the stress of constant vigilance and worry about reactions that can happen at any time. Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of what seems in retrospect to be a worry-free life.
You may feel like grief stretches on forever as you manage your allergies throughout your life. You may grieve after you receive your diagnosis and then move on, only to find that years later, after a reaction, an accidental exposure, or other setback, you need to re-grieve. Grief may be in direct response to your loss of health or it may be a loss of freedom or identity or social network that impacts you at the moment. All of these ways of experiencing grief are normal.
Allow yourself the space and time to move through the grieving process. The American Psychological Association also suggests taking the following steps to help cope with the stress of food allergies:
- Stay connected. Maintain your connections with friends and family. Join a food allergy support group such as Kids With Food Allergies.
- Take care of yourself. Don't allow worries about your allergies to get in the way of good nutrition, rest, and exercise. Do things you enjoy doing. Have fun.
- Keep doing what you're doing. Maintain stability in your life by doing the same work, household tasks, hobbies or sports that you did before your diagnosis (or before your reaction or exposure).
Life with food allergies is a continually unfolding process of change and adaptation. Feelings of grief or loss are a normal part of that process, and may come and go over time.
There will also be moments of happiness and joy along the way. Savor them.
More about Grief and Food Allergies:
American Psychological Association. Chronic Illness. Accessed June 23, 2010. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic.aspx