Grief is learned at an early age. We all remember losing our favorite toy or holding a funeral service for our pet mouse. Suddenly, something we knew and loved was missing. I remember feeling as if my world was turned upside down and then shaken vigorously when these instances occurred. Even when an object that’s dear to us breaks, our hearts shatter.
I remember being 7 years old when my beloved Beanie Baby squirrel — who I named Nuts — broke. I don’t mean his beans fell out and it was a manufacturing disaster — I mean his tail became unsewn from his body. That should have been a miniscule situation, right? But to me, he was no longer perfect. He changed, and it tore me apart. I recall crying with him on my pillow, a bandage around his tail. It was a dramatic scene.
My mother scoured the shops locally to find me a replacement Nuts, which wasn’t easy, given the popularity of Beanie Babies at the time. Yet, she managed to find a new one and gifted it to me. I quickly became attached to the new Nuts, and life was good. Yet, I could never let go of the original. That squirrel and I had a history.
We have all experienced way worse scenarios than a toy becoming suddenly imperfect. We have lost loved ones; encountered breakups, divorces, and job losses; been burdened by debt; or received bad news regarding our health. However, the feeling of loss is the same.
For me, grieving my multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis was similar to when Nuts broke. I was no longer the same. My body was no longer “perfect.” My version of “healthy” was forever changed. I, of course, made changes to offset my “imperfection,” found the best neurologist, started disease-modifying therapy (DMT), and started writing to advocate for those living with MS. I did everything necessary to adjust to being the owner of my new body, similar to the new Nuts. I appreciated the “new” because it was there to help me — yet I still couldn’t let go of the old me. “The original.”
That’s the thing with grief. Time makes loss slightly easier to manage. We learn how to cope. We try embracing our new normal the best we can — ultimately, we have no other choice. Yet, there is always a part of us that misses the original.
What’s easy to forget is that “the original” is still a part of us, but now with minor alterations. It’s possible to still love and appreciate the original version of ourselves, but it’s pertinent to embrace and respect the new version. It will always be a balancing act. The two go hand in hand.
MyMSTeam columnists discuss multiple sclerosis from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyMSTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyMSTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.