Adjustment to vision loss is a process. Each person adjusts in their own time and manner.
This adjustment is very similar to the stages of grief 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 usually progress through the stages in the order listed below. But, not always. Some people may skip a step. Others may advance one step, then fall two back when a new challenge arises. The feelings in each step may also 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 in someone who had reached acceptance.
Stages of Adjustment to Vision Loss
Your group members will all be at different stages:
Shock and disbelief
When a person realizes that their vision is not coming back and may even get worse, shock and disbelief are a common response. They need time to absorb the news.
People 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. They may think about what is important to them and normally will come to the conclusion that there are still reasons for living. Many aspects of life that everyone values such as being a good friend, being kind and compassionate and helping others have nothing to do with vision loss. Through this process, a “turning point” is reached. A person with vision loss will start to look forward instead of dwelling on negative feelings.
A person in this stage will start to seek proof (more than what their suspicions tell them) that a different life is possible. 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.