Mourning The Visual Self

Back when I first was diagnosed and learning to deal with vision loss, one of the first sources of information and support was the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind). At a workshop, I was joined by several others coming to grips to vision loss of various kinds and to varying degrees. I don’t remember much from that workshop aside from the instructor off-topically mentioning the need to take time and grieve over your vision loss. At first I did not give this much thought, but the idea stayed with me and has made more sense with the passage of time.

A quick google search on grief will turn up many models of the stages of grief such as the following one.

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Overly simplified model of grief

Anybody that has dealt with grief would call bullshit on the simple model above. Grief is a much messier process which can occur in any order, with many unpredictable changes, including going back and repeating stages. There is no set path forward, and no two individuals experience it the same way. Undoubtedly most people will experience the various stages of loss at one time or another, but we need to find our own way to deal with the messiness in our own due time. I have no training in grief counselling and i’m not in a position to give advice. Rather this post is simply an exploration of the topic and being put out there for discussion.

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Shit is going to get messy

So what is it that you are mourning with vision loss? Surprisingly a lot. The part of you that drove and could hop in a car to easily go to the store for groceries, the part of you that liked to curl up with a good book on a rainy day, the part of you that would confidently mingle at work events with a firm handshake and good eye-contact, the part of you that could impulsively do things without ever considering what the lighting would be like or if you’d be able to make it to your destination and back without assistance.

A lot of people build up their sense of identity on job titles, roles, relationships, hobbies and interests. Gradual vision loss leads to the slow mind-fuckery of having these markers stripped away. Photographer? Good luck with that! Independent traveler? Avid reader? Sunset lover? I’m not saying you can’t continue to do or enjoy these things, but the challenges mount, and your sense of identity is shaken to its core. The question “who am I?” leads to fewer and fewer answers. You start adding ‘blind-‘ in front of old markers, like a blind-chef, or a blind-blogger.

Dealing with these changes, it’s the old visual self that took their vision for granted which needs to be mourned. And in this process, anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance are your travel partners. Get to know them, you’ll be spending a lot of time getting to know each other. I cannot offer the best method for dealing with grief, aside from sharing the best advice I have received on the topic.

Find your own way in your own due time, and know that you are not alone.