In the next 10 minutes, 498 Americans will become disabled, according to the National Safety Council. This number continues to grow annually as advances as medical advances occur. The most common reasons for disability include problems with the musculoskeletal system and hearing and vision loss. These individuals often go through a process similar to the grieving process that occurs when a loved one dies. You may be familiar with the five stages of grief proposed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, but Dr. Jennifer Martin says that most people with a long-term disabilities go through seven stages.
During this phase, an individual may deny that they are disabled. They may believe that the condition will go away, or they may be shocked that they will never return to how life was before the disability occurred.
During this phase, the individual who has become disabled tries to plead or bargain with a higher power to get their previous life back. They may also spend time wondering if they could have done something to prevent the disability from occurring.
Most people who acquire a disability go through a phase of getting angry at everyone around them. Depending on the individual, this may include throwing temper tantrums, physically lashing out or yelling at everyone.
As an individual with a disability moves towards acceptance, they may feel depressed. People often try to withdraw from others during this stage.
Especially in individuals who defined their self-worth by what they could do in life, such as their job, disabled individuals often go through a period of confusion as they seek new roles in life or move towards changing their current ones.
Individuals in this stage are actively finding ways to carry out the roles that are most vital to them. For example, an individual who has lost the ability to walk may start embracing a wheelchair as a mobility aid, or someone who has become deaf may start embracing speech-to-text apps.
The last phase is acceptance of the new norm. Individuals start searching for things they can enjoy, given their new circumstances.
The path to becoming a disabled individual is often not straight through all the stages. For example, an individual may seem to accept their new reality one day before moving back into denial another day.
Seeking counseling as a newly disabled individual can help you move through each phase successfully. If you need help, please reach out to our caring mental health professionals.