A Look at Migraine Through the Stages of Grief

By Laura

It was the “Why me?”, “Please make it stop.”, “I can’t handle this” feelings that had me stuck in cycles of grief every time I had a migraine. A year ago, I would still be going through these ups and downs every. single. migraine. Not now.

Now, I have looked beyond the migraine, journaled my way through each stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally made it through to the final stage — acceptance.

Acceptance and surrendering have been the key to altering my mindset when it comes to living with chronic migraine and chronic illness. This doesn’t mean laying down and giving up the fight completely, but it does mean going to bed, laying down and accepting what my body needs me to do some days. For me, reducing my internal struggle has led to a greater peace and a faster recovery from a migraine. It hasn’t been a cure, but it has been a solution.

Here’s how I looked at migraines through the stages of grief:

Denial: “This can’t be happening.”

Every time I get a migraine I feel like “Oh no, it’s happening again.” I worry about how long it will last and events or deadlines I have in the coming days. The thought “This can’t be happening” also pops into my mind when the pain surges or another symptom gets worse. Especially when I’ve done all I can do to make myself feel better. All this causes panic, stress, muscle tension, and anxiety.

Anger: “Why is this happening to me?”

I used to feel this a lot more than I do now. It still does come up though and causes me to be depressed, to cry, to feel desperate, hopeless, overwhelmed and asking, “Why me? What did I do wrong to deserve this?” It all leads to a place of extreme sadness. I get really upset I have to have caregivers to look after me although I am extremely grateful they are there for me.

Bargaining: “What can I do to make it stop?”

If the “Why me? What did I do wrong to deserve this?” thought continues in my mind, I’ll start asking the universe what I can do to make it stop, start apologizing for things I probably don’t need to apologize for and offering to give up things in my life or qualities about me if it would just end. It also ends with me wanting to try all sorts of treatments, medications, and therapies to get my life back.

Depression: “What’s the point of going on after this loss?”

Some days, I really do see migraines as taking away the life I could have had. It leads me to not wanting to be alive and worrying about the future. I have trouble answering the questions, “How am I going to live with this long-term? How can I survive a life like this?”

Acceptance: “I know what happened, and I can’t change it. Now I need to cope.”

I have worked really hard in this area. Now I have these mantras and affirmations to help me through. Although, it does still take a lot of effort on my bad days to make myself believe them! Slowly but surely, they are coming through more naturally:

– Migraines are a part of me, not all of me.

– Anxiety is ok to have, it will not define my day; I will show anxiety love.

– I will live a successful life with chronic illness.

– I set boundaries based on what I need at that moment.

– And my favourite: Trust the universe; let life unfold with ease.

Working through these stages on a day when I don’t have a migraine and can remove myself from the pain helps to put this disease into perspective. It has taught me how to cope and what warning signs to look for when I’m in a migraine and might need to pull out my list of affirmations or read these words again to reset my mind frame.

Do you go through the stages of grief with migraine too? What thoughts pop into your mind? Try this exercise and leave us a comment!


[Header photo by Finn Hackshaw on Unsplash]

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