Adjustment to vision loss is a process. It is very similar to the stages of grieving experienced with the loss of a loved one. A person may feel as though they are grieving the loss of their sighted self. People will progress through the stages in different amounts of time. Progression is generally sequential as listed — but not always. These feelings may reoccur from time to time even when someone has been living with vision loss for a long time. Additional loss of vision may also trigger the cycle.
Your group members will all be at different stages:
• Shock and disbelief occur when a person is told or realizes that their vision is not coming back and perhaps is going to get worse. They need time to absorb the news.
• People who are in denial may believe a medical miracle or their faith is going to cure them. If a person’s vision is not going to return, it is important that they hear that information from the doctor. Only then can they move past it. There is nothing wrong in hoping for the future but today and tomorrow are what must be lived.
• Your group may include people who feel very depressed and hopeless about their vision loss. They may be withdrawing from normal social interaction. They will often focus on what they perceive to be their many new limitations.
• The adjustment process often causes a person to spend a great deal of time reflecting on what they still value in life, what is important to them, and normally will come to the conclusion that there are still reasons for living and going on. Many aspects of life that everyone values such as being a good friend, being kind and compassionate, helping others, have nothing to do with vision loss. A “turning point” is reached and a person with vision loss will start to look forwards instead of dwelling on negative feelings.
• Once vision loss brings about changes in life, a person will start to seek proof (more than what their suspicions tell them) that a different life is possible with vision loss. Support groups fill this need for answers and information that validate a life lived with independence.
• As new skills and knowledge are gained, a person reaches a point of self-acceptance and increased self-esteem. This person will be your valued group member who inspires and shares his or her knowledge with the group members who are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry.