Stages of a Serious Illness

When a patient suffers from a serious illness the first response is denial. People usually believe that they cannot become ill; they become accustomed to the idea that nothing can affect the way in which they live their lives. Naturally, upon finding that an illness affects their health and lives, the mind resists reality and patients try to convince themselves that they are perfectly healthy.

Denial is usually magnified by anger, which is a serious illness’s second stage. Patients become angry at the idea of them being the unlucky ones who had to become ill. Anger can have a negative effect on sick patients, so it is important to offer counseling and to help patients find outlets to burst their anger (so that they can cope and focus on combating their illness).

Fear is the third stage of a serious illness. Patients are afraid that their lives will change forever, that they might never be cured or even die. When people grasp the seriousness of their condition their first reaction is to panic. In order to counter fear, patients must be well informed about their condition and they must be motivated in their faith. If a patient succumbs to fear, the illness may control the patient’s life completely.  

Grief is the fourth stage of a serious illness. Patients feel grief when they realize that their lives will never be the same as prior to the illness. Patients feeling grief might feel they no longer belong to their social context; they may alienate themselves from others and fall into depression. Countering this situation, it is important that patients focus on those activities that remain unaffected by the disease so that they retain a sense of normalcy.

The last stage of a serious illness is acceptance. While combating the disease, patients began to realize that they do have something more to live for, that their lives are not over and that there are certain aspects of their lives that have not changed at all. Therapy and successful treatment help patients feel confident about defeating their illness.

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