If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you may be grieving the loss of gluten. It is so important for people to understand that this grief is real! Awareness of this response can help normalize what you are going through.
Part of the grieving process is hope. What everybody wants is hope for a better life, and it’s totally possible. It takes work to get through the grieving process, but on the other side, life has so much potential.
In one of my Gluten-Free With Coral podcasts, I speak with my great friend and life coach Jamee Andelin about what it means to grieve gluten. This conversation can help anyone who may be struggling in their gluten-free journey.
The grieving process
There are five stages to the grieving process, but I like to think of it with two extra parts — the before and the after. At the start, the first feeling is really shock: thinking “What?!” And then there’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Through this cycle, there’s hope. So those are all part of the process, and we can find ourselves going through this cycle when we find out something difficult, like that we have celiac, or that there are serious issues in our marriage, or that we’re living through a pandemic.
Sometimes we push away the idea of the grieving gluten, thinking “it’s only food,” and we don’t give ourselves permission to process those feelings. Even though we may think, “No one has died, I don’t have a right to be grieving,” its actually an identity transformation that we may be working through. But being aware and accepting that this is a normal part of being human can help us.
Andelin explains how transitioning to a new “gluten-free identity” relates to the grieving cycle: What happens in our mind when we go through any change is that a new identity is being formed. And when that new identity is being formed, there is an old identity that is being lost. So as you’re transitioning into this new identity, there is a feeling loss of the old identity.
Tools to work through the grieving process
Here are two key tools to help work through this process:
“Digest” your emotions
Learning how to accept the discomfort and to digest those emotions is the number one skill I recommend everybody develop. You have to digest the sadness, or whatever it is you’re feeling — those emotions have to be processed. It can be as simple as acknowledging, for example, “I’m sad,” or talking to someone about it.
Practicing self-compassion means supporting yourself through suffering. It’s not pushing the suffering away or denying it, it’s just acknowledging that it’s there.
The number one thing that a lot of people feel when they go through a dietary change is isolation. It’s a massive lifestyle shift, and everyone close to the person is affected. You can start to feel lonely and isolated. So, for example, just acknowledging that “of course, I’m feeling isolated” can help.
Grieving gluten is 100% real — that is why it is so important to realize that when we feel and act certain ways about eating gluten free, there are steps we can take to feel hope again. I hope this helps!