[Ohio-talk] Advice for helping others cope with vision loss

Marianne Denning marianne at denningweb.com
Thu Oct 17 16:13:12 UTC 2013

Kaity, She needs to go through the grieving process and it is an
absolutely necessary part of the adjustment process.  She will go back
and forth among the parts of grieving.  Remember, this is very new to
her now.  I know people who have worked with blind people and lose
vision as adults and it is very different when it is you going through
it than when it is someone else.  Hadley has a great course you might
consider taking.  It is called self-esteem and adjusting to blindness.
 It might help you support her.  I can give you other resources if you
need them.  The NFB is great but you need other resources too.

On 10/17/13, Cheryl Fischer <c16a19f at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> Dear Kaiti,
> Try thinking of your roommate's experience as one where she is trying to
> cope with a serious loss and fearing an even greater loss to come. When
> someone we care for is suffering, we often feel we must do something to
> help, but we don't know how. What your roommate probably needs right now is
> to grieve her loss (which from what you say may be bigger than loss of
> eyesight and she may not be ready to face that yet.) So, let her focus on
> the loss of eyesight and let her know that you care about her and that you
> do want her to tell you how she is doing both physically and emotionally.
> Even if your roommate understood fully that a blind person could manage
> well
> and live a full life, that wouldn't lessen her feeling of loss. For
> instance, if you had a friend or aquaintance who is both deaf and blind and
> you suddenly aquired a medical condition that made you lose significant
> hearing and there was a threat of your losing more hearing in the future,
> you would be experiencing a great sense of loss and trepidation, even
> though
> you knew another person who coped well with being both deaf and blind.
> To get off the medical analogies, if your parent had died when you were a
> child and your roommate's parent just died suddenly in a car crash and it
> was uncertain whether her other parent who was also in the car would live
> or
> die, the best thing you could do is say that you feel for her in her
> suffering and will be there for her. It would do no good to point out to
> her
> that you and others have managed after the loss of a parent.
> Feelings are often illogical, but it's helpful if someone around your
> roommate accepts or validates her feelings, whatever they may be. You can't
> fix this for her, but you can ask, "How are you?" and say, "I hear how you
> are feeling, and I care." .
> I hope your friend's family is involved, too. You could also tell her that
> you think she should see a therapist at the college to help her sort
> through
> all she is going through. From what you've written, it all sounds very
> scary.
> Cheryl
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ohio-talk [mailto:ohio-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Kaiti
> Shelton
> Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2013 10:29 AM
> To: NFB of Ohio Announcement and Discussion List
> Subject: [Ohio-talk] Advice for helping others cope with vision loss
> Hi all,
> I'm asking for advice, because I have very little experience with this.  My
> friend and roommate, due to some odd medical circumstances, was diagnosed
> legally blind last weekend.  She still has the vast majority of her vision,
> (she lost some peripheral, but not enough to lose her driving priviledges).
> Nevertheless, the diagnosis has her freaking about about the potential for
> going blind some day in the future.  She is on treatment now so it's
> possible that her vision won't decrease further at all.  She's so upset
> about it though that she's fixating on it rather than the other
> neurological
> symptoms associated with her condition, which are effecting things like her
> ability to concentrate , and her ability to walk long distances and lift
> things above a certain weight is compromised by the treatment she is on.
> She also gets really bad, migraine-level headaches, which are so painful
> that they'll take her out of commission from whatever she's doing.
> My other roommate and I are a bit unsure of how to handle this.  The other
> roommate is sighted, but had a grandparent who went blind later in life and
> still managed to be independent.  Both she and I know blindness is not the
> worst thing that could happen to a person, and are far more concerned with
> the other symptoms than the vision.  We feel for her circumstances, but
> we're caught in the middle because even my roommate knows blindness is not
> really something to be pittied from seeing her grandparent pick up and
> continue after losing sight.  But, The roommate who was diagnosed did not
> know a single blind person before she met me, and although I have shown her
> I personally don't fit the poor, helpless blind person stereotype, she
> still
> perceives blind people at large in that way.  (For example, rather than
> independent she calls me "high functioning" and has a tendency to help at
> times because she thinks it's what I need).  I don't really talk about
> things like blindness philosophy with my roommates, so I didn't place much
> of an emphasis on really teaching otherwise.  I might have said things here
> and there about how I'm not as independent as some other blind people, or
> that a lot of other people are independent too, but I never really
> dispelled
> the myth that I was extraordinarily high-functioning for being blind, or
> that other people were not lower in functioning because of their blindness.
> I just figured that I should do what I normally do, politely deal with the
> unwanted helping, and go on with the hope that I would be a good example.
> I
> really did not give it a lot of thought beyond that.
> First I tried to empathize with her, but I am finding that as a
> congenitally
> blind person, it is difficult for me to really empathize because I have
> grown up with my parents always being honest about my vision, the potential
> for total blindness at some point, and positive role models to show me that
> should that happen I can still lead a fully happy and productive life.  My
> parents also worked to develop blindness skills I can use, and as an adult
> I
> have even taught myself a few adaptive techniques to pick up where my mom
> and dad left off.  But, I do not understand the sudden shock of receiving a
> diagnosis later in life, nor do I not have the slightest idea of how I
> would
> continue should something happen to my vision, as I have needed to make
> changes to accommodate decreases before.  I also realize that seeing
> someone
> else use adaptive techniques is far different from imagining yourself doing
> them.  I can understand that she might be thinking, "How will I match my
> clothes?," or "how will I cook?," even though she sees me do both things
> and
> others on a daily basis.  These things might seem like relatively small
> things to me as I know systems for dealing with them, but to someone who
> doesn't know they could seem like impossible tasks to perform without
> sight.
> This has been especially weird for me, as she has been condemning blindness
> so strongly the past few days.  I know that her experience is totally
> different, as she has had full sight to this point in her life and has
> those
> negative perceptions to go off of, but I have trouble separating her woe
> statements from statements about me or blind people in general.  I do not
> want her to continue pittying herself, nor do I want to force positive
> philosophy on her because she isn't ready for it.  This is still very new
> for her and I know I need to give her some time to work through some of
> these issues on her own.  However, I also feel that if she really does have
> these very strong, negative feelings about blindness, that the sooner she
> gets rid of them the better she'll be should further vision loss occur.  I
> feel like the longer she believes blindness is to be pittied, the more
> likely it is that she will feel that she is to be pittied, and that will
> not
> make coping with her condition any better.  It doesn't help that the
> family,
> in their ignorance, seems to be pittying her as well.  As we know, that is
> probably the last thing she needs, which is why I think giving her a
> positive view of blindness will be really important.
> Any thoughts on how to find a happy medium?
> Kaiti Shelton
> University of Dayton---2016
> Music Therapy Major, Psychology Minor, Clarinet
> Advocates for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), Vice president
> Ohio Association of Blind Students, Secretary
> NFB Community Service Group, Service Project Committee Chair
> Sigma Alpha Iota-Delta Sigma, Usher Coordinator
> UD Music Therapy Club
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Marianne Denning, TVI, MA
Teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired
(513) 607-6053

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