When Sylvia’s husband passed away, managing her health conditions — including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — became exponentially more difficult. The key to her perseverance was receiving support from someone living with similar circumstances. Here she recounts her emotions following in the wake of a diagnosis, a loved one’s death and a powerful personal connection.

Loss & Loneliness

I can recall the moment of losing my husband. It was a shock to my emotional being. I had never been through such horrific grief.

I had several conditions that would be at the forefront of my grieving experience. I had lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and borderline diabetes. Lupus is an autoimmune disease. With it comes variable symptoms. Many times, I would experience flare-ups. I would feel alone and isolated.

It would be of great joy to meet someone else who was experiencing the same grief.

A Gift of Friendship

I found that this friend became comforting to talk to. We shared many of the same health issues, as well as being widows. [They had] excellent advice in strategies to better health. There became a powerful exchange of accountability, compassion and deep concern. I felt in my heart that at this specific time I had been given a gift of someone who had what I had and was successful in their physical and emotional journey.

In real time, this connection helped me on those nights I felt restless or couldn’t go to sleep. There is nothing like having a listening ear and a compassionate word available when you’re most in need. I could depend on this person, and without fail they were there for me. Many times, my anxiety level would decrease and I would fall asleep more easily. Having a person that is there for you is so powerful as we walk out our journey.

This changed how I could make the necessary changes to get healthy and remain that way. I had to fully comprehend that our emotional health and physical health are intertwined. I felt this connection was the first part in an overall healing from the grief of losing a loved one. Taking control over my physical health is my priority now.

I have made numerous adjustments. I have changed my diet. I have removed sugar and salt completely. I purposely make myself drink water. I have a daily exercise regimen that I stick to. I set aside each day a space where I gift myself a meditation moment.

This personal time gives me a moment to connect to myself and look at others in my life. It allows me the space to pray. I have found these adjustments have given me balance. I have intentionally removed toxic relationships [from] my life and I am so much [more] peaceful for these life adjustments.

Openness Opens Doors

I am hopeful that things for my health will continue to be good. I had read so many horror stories. You just feel afraid. I felt afraid of the unknown. The unknown of medicine and will it work. The unknown of how many times will you have to be treated at the hospital.

I had knowledge of [medication] affecting organs. I knew that some medication can affect your hair growth. I started losing some hair and of course I was afraid all my hair would fall out. Certain medication affects eyesight and that is truly a big concern of mine.

My advice to others is to be open to a connection. We all can be a support for someone else. Be willing to connect with others and finally be honest. Many times, people feel that they don’t need nobody. I feel connecting to others is powerful and has helped me tremendously in my health journey.

There is power in connection. [It] shows compassion.

Sylvia F.
Lorton, VA
Lives with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, depression

Has a connection with someone helped shape your approach to health or other challenges? If so, share the story with our community.