I’ve Lost All My Family; Now I’m Afraid of Having A Serious Disease — What’s Wrong With Me?

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Reader’s Question

I am a 51-year-old woman and I have lost all my family! I feel lonely, but the worst feelings I have are those of having a serious disease. I have a lesion on my hand which I was afraid of but dermatologists say that it’s only a wart. I feel very bad just looking at it.

I always feel worried about something! What is wrong with me?

Psychologist’s Reply

Please allow me to offer my condolences on losing all of your family. That is such a huge loss! Whenever people experience bereavement as intense as this must be for you, they often will focus on something that is not as painful or uncontrollable. I’m wondering if that is what you are doing with all of the worry. For example, I’m guessing that in your worry about the wart, you have read up on skin lesions, seen a few doctors and talked about it with others. It occupies your time and while you are thinking about the wart, you are not thinking about your grief.

When grief is extremely raw, it can be helpful to avoid focusing on it until the pain is more manageable. However, if you never allow yourself to feel the pain, it can never get better. Worry can be a way to avoid feeling the pain and but ultimately it ends up holding you hostage. The best way to counteract it is to confront the hurt head-on. Only then can you move forward and heal.

Grief is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming process but it actually can be quite good and necessary. You grieve because you care, because you had something to lose. That is good. Moreover, if you use the grieving process in a transformative way, it can make you stronger. Pain is often a motivation for change (ergo the saying: “No pain, no gain!”). Thus, your grief may give you the impetus to make some necessary changes in your behavior or your circumstances, thereby eventually making things better. If you can do that, then the worry will no longer dictate your life and you will be free to enjoy it.

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