Welcome back to Part 4 of The Comical Colon’s 5-Year Chronic Illness Anniversary Series!
This is a blog series where I share the five most significant life lessons that ulcerative colitis has taught me.
Click here to read the previous posts in this series:
- Accepting Your Chronic Illness Isn’t a One-Time Thing
- When Your Diagnosis Isn’t About You Anymore
- Life’s Too Short to Work a Job That Doesn’t Bring You Joy
Lesson 4: Sometimes, grief disguises itself as nostalgia
As an active blogger and patient advocate in the chronic illness community, I come across many articles about grief.
People get real vulnerable and talk about how they miss their old body and how they had to put their dreams on hold and share what their chronic illness had taken away.
Everyone with chronic illness experiences the five stages of grief differently. And everyone should experience it. It’s natural, and I’d even venture to say healthy.
As you don’t let yourself linger there.
But today I want to discuss something that was recently revealed to me. Something that I haven’t really seen in the chronic illness community: Sometimes, grief can disguise itself as nostalgia.
A Recent Moment of Nostalgia
The other day, my husband and I walked into a local seafood restaurant near where we live in Tennessee.
It was cute and homely, despite its faded and worn-down appearance. And it was on the shore of the harbor—just a few mere strides away from the balmy waters.
But as soon as I stepped inside the restaurant, its interior took me back to a port-side restaurant in Fort Bragg, California, called Captain Flint’s, where my family used to go every summer when I was younger.
This Tennessee restaurant’s resemblance to Captain Flint’s was uncanny—its chipped, wooden walls, cramped space and narrow hallways, warm, yellow lighting, and rich smell of fresh fish and shrimp.
And while this brought happy memories of spending time with my brother and cousins with our noses pressed against the glass of a giant fish tank in the waiting area of Captain Flint’s, the nostalgia was overpowering.
I both wanted to stay in this southern restaurant forever AND run outside back to our car gasping for fresh air and sunlight to wrench me from this dream-state that pulled away from me enjoying the “now”.
And in that moment, as I separated memory from reality, I understood that grief is transformative, as I momentarily grieved for the days before I was sick.
When the waiter interrupted my thoughts, asking if we’d like a seat inside or outside, I chose outside.
I knew Tennessee’s sunny and humid atmosphere would break the spell.
I knew the heat and chorus of cicadas would bring me into the now, separating me from picturing the cold, salty, cloudy air that always hung over Captain Flint’s and the entire chilly town of Fort Bragg.
Let Yourself Feel These Emotions
I think falling into fits of nostalgia is a perfectly normal, imperfectly human thing.
I’m a huge proponent of allowing yourself to experience the full spectrum of emotions, so long as you don’t stay in the negative ones—anger, grief, nostalgia.
So I allowed myself to be momentarily overcome by those familiar wooden walls and the overpowering smell of seafood.
I let my brain pretend the humid Tennessee air had transformed into misty clouds, and that the calm harbor had become Fort Bragg’s turbulent and frothy ocean.
But only briefly.
Do Not Let Yourself Linger in These Emotions
Do not become lost in that world that no longer exists.
When you step back outside to follow the waiter to your table, don’t be dismayed that the sun is still out and that it smells like summer trees instead of salty seawater.
Let the warmth thaw your memory so you can appreciate your past for what it is.
Learn to be grateful for the present and the people in your presence.
Be thankful for how far you’ve come and the strength you’ve accumulated along your journey.
I’d love to continue this conversation with you in the comments!
- Have you ever experienced a fit of grief as nostalgia? How did you react? What things do you do to not linger in the negative emotions like anger, grief, and nostalgia?
Find me on social media for more inspo!