How Learning to Cope with Grief, Helped Me Deal with Diabetes

Andrea Piacquadio

I was no stranger to grief. I experienced loss for the first time on my 14th birthday when my 19-year old brother was killed in a tragic accident. Three years later, my mother would die of an unexpected illness. But, it was the death of my sister to a prescription drug overdose when I was a grandmother of 50 that taught me what grief was. That was the grief that led me to depression and forced me to get mental help. That was the first time I had to “learn to cope.” Ten years later, I found myself reaching for those skills once again. This time not because of the loss of a loved one. This time, because of a diagnosis that would alter my life.

“You Have Type-2 Diabetes”

This really doesn’t sound that bad. We all hear about diabetes often. According to the DRI,   34.2 million people have diabetes in the United States alone. Each of us probably have family or friends with the disease as we speak. Yet, until your doctor says these words to you, you do not understand the weight they carry.

I had been overweight my entire life and had a very unhealthy relationship with food. But I never had diabetes. I had gained weight by my middle-aged years and was now obese. I spent thousands of dollars having weight loss surgery. But even at 100 pounds overweight, I never got diabetes. Now, when I am older, thinner, and somewhat together, I have diabetes? The doctor was saying, this is controllable, and manageable. I was hearing, “you’re going to die.”

Stage One – Denial

Just like when my sister died, I refused to deal with this. I had given my diagnosis, but I refused to accept it. But my symptoms continued. The feeling I experienced when my blood-glucose was high was still with me. I felt physically sick and mentally spent.

Coping with Denial

When I learned to cope with denial, I had just lost someone close to me. She was in her early 30’s with two little kids and so much to live for. But now, a few pills too many and she is gone forever. I refused to believe it.

Now I am being told that I have a disease that has no cure. I will have to test my blood before each meal with a blood glucose meter, using a drop of blood that I draw from my finger. I will have to control every bite of food I take. I never could before, now I have no choice.


  • Talking to a friend
  • Talking everything out with a friend who understands is the best way to acknowledge and move on.
  • Keeping a journal
  • Say what you would say if you were talking to your loved one, or partner about the changes that are upsetting you

Stage Two – Anger

Dealing with Anger

When I finally accepted that my sister was gone, I was furious. How many times had I told her to stop playing with those medications? I warned her and warned her, but she didn’t listen. I even called her doctor and warned him, but she kept getting them. Now what? Kids without a mother. Funeral expenses. All of our lives, altered forever, and why? So she could get high one rainy afternoon. I was mad. How could she be so thoughtless? How could she be so selfish?


  • Seek medical attention
  • The first thing I did was see my general practitioner. This was to ensure my overall health was good and I was not having problems that I was unaware of. Once that was done, I reached out for counseling.
  • Being a spiritual person, I chose to reach out to the minister of my church for help. He counseled me a couple of times and then he put me in touch with a grief counselor through our faith that is highly qualified, and believes as we do. They understood and didn’t seem uncomfortable when I complained and gripped. They gave me permission to get mad. That was enough for me.

Stage Three – Guilt

Going Through Guilt

For me, guilt was the worst of all the issues that I had to suffer with. As soon as the anger left me, I was flooded with a never-ending flow of guilt. What didn’t I do? What should I have done? Did I push too hard?

I have always known diabetes was a possibility. Even when I tried to lose weight, I didn’t care what I put in my body to fuel it. Now I have broken myself and we don’t know how sick we will get.


  • Set aside time to grieve
  • I knew I could not fall into a dark guilt and carry on with life, so I let myself have 1 hour per day for guilt. I made sure it was time that wouldn’t lead to an uncomfortable situation. I give myself 30-minutes every morning before I shower and 30-minutes when I get home.

There are many more stages of grief and you may go through all of them or just some of them or all of them in various situations. Once you learn that they are tools and adapt the tools to fit your situation, you will find you have all you need to get through. Just keep going.