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When does the grieving end?

When does the grieving end?

Another setback

I recently attempted to decrease my dose of amitriptyline (an antidepressant often prescribed as an off-label daily preventative for people with migraine). I had done this successfully in the past, gradually bringing my nightly dose down from 50mg to 20mg over several years while I focused on other parts of my treatment plan to maintain and improve my quality of life. But this time, I experienced some blatant, intolerable withdrawal symptoms.

What was different? Maybe it came down to the time of year? March in Central Canada is pretty much an unpredictable weather smorgasbord, with a heaping portion of gray days and snow showers; it’s not good for moods or migraine brains. Maybe it’s simply what my pharmacist suggested: that it gets harder to wean off amitriptyline once you edge closer to 0 mg. Or maybe the difficulty was that I’m just pushing myself too hard professionally. But regardless of the reasons for my symptoms, I was not willing to stick it out. With trouble sleeping, a dark could hanging over my head, and increased migraine severity and frequency, I gave up after two weeks.

Which is fine, except, I was trying to wean myself of the class C drug so that someday my partner and I might try and make a baby. So to increase my dosage again means taking a step back from that. I haven’t given up on the idea of conception. I may have a few more childbearing years left, and there are still new non-drug treatments for me to try, but when it comes down to it, I’m not willing to give up my current quality of life for baby making.

Body versus plans

Which is fine. For a variety of reasons, adoption has always been on the table for me, and I’m not particularly encouraged by my friends’ candid birthing stories… So why have I been on the brink of tears all week?

I think it must come down to the fact that once again, my body has put a limitation on my plans. I have a choice between potentially wreaking havoc on my body and experience much more pain and disability, or trying to have a child via pregnancy. Not a great choice. In fact, that decision warrants an article all of its own.

When does the grieving end?

I’ve worked through this before. I left a career and a city because of migraine. I’ve more-or-less rearranged my whole life around migraine so that I can still make a living and have some kind of social life. I’ve grieved my past abilities and career, and I’ve learned that my identity is so much more varied and complex than my job title. Shouldn’t I be over it all by now? Shouldn’t I have accepted my new limitations and learned to live within them without falling to pieces with each new hurdle?

I wish. But it seems that’s not realistic. Barring some miracle (please?), migraine is likely to continue to limit my choices, and no matter how much gratitude I practice, I’m probably never going to fully accept that.

Maybe grieving never ends. Maybe it’s just a part of life that is more frequent and intense for some. Maybe it’s the reason I’m so good at finding silver linings.

Grieving better

The silver lining of this darn difficult awful terrible stupid March is that after moving through migraine-related grief over and over, I can definitely see that I’m getting better at it. Instead of following my first instinct to stay holed up in my bedroom eating chocolate and cheese and disconnect from the world, this time I let some people know what was going on right away. Then I saw my doc and got a referral to have a few counselling sessions. I forced myself to the gym, and damnit, I hated every second of it, but I felt better afterwards.

How do you deal when migraine throws up a new wall between you and your dreams?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • LT
    3 years ago

    This: “I have a choice between potentially wreaking havoc on my body and experience much more pain and disability, or trying to have a child via pregnancy. Not a great choice. In fact, that decision warrants an article all of its own.” This is what I am stuck in too. I really feel for what you are going through, I was trying to conceive for the first time (for just two cycles) last year but got too unwell to continue and now I”m not sure if I can go through with trying to get pregnant at all because of my body’s limitations, and a severe mood disorder that I am struggling with. I feel like I’m dealing with infertility but I haven’t even really been able to try to conceive! Meanwhile I feel like time is flying by, and my life is passing me by, and my body won’t let me do what I want to do. Like you, I’ve accepted other setbacks for the most part but I”m not sure I can accept this one.

  • ndw6888
    3 years ago

    What a good question. My husband and I keep asking the same thing. Like you said, you’ve grieved and grieved before, and though we get better at recognizing and accepting that life is drastically different and will continue to be with a chronic migraine brain, it is still painful. Everytime.

    My God, I am thankful for the communal agreement that it is hard and that it is something to actively grieve. I don’t know about anyone else’s experiences, but I do know I have had, and at times continue, to work through quite a bit of feelings of guilt and burden for not being able to be the active, social, commited, and “low maintenance” woman I was before migraines became a daily companion. What freedom it beings to have others validate the things that feel impossibly hard, even though it doesn’t change the existence of the pain, frustration, anxiety, and lack of hope life limitations bring.

    I’ve been asking myself how I want to exist in the world as it is, not as I want it to be, and I’ve realized that question itself brings a lot of pain because it feels maybe too honest that I do not have the physical ability to live how I have expected to live. My nerdy husband quotes stoic and existential philosophy at me about those with “real life” acknowledge the “void” (the basest things that are impossibly hard, like our limitstions), experience the depths of it, and choose to walk through it. Sometimes (or a lot of the time) my response it a gutteral, “screw you.” Life is hard enough without having to consistently take full stock of all the ways you eish it were different. But I don’t think he’s wrong.

    My goal right now is to learn to be honest enough to fully recognize my “void” of chronic daily pain and what that means to my body, friendships, marriage, living expenses, community, sense of self, you name it. AND be honest enough with myself to act on the belief that I can take one more good step to existing well in the swirls of grief. I also give myself the freedom to eat ice cream. Both help :).

  • TBI and still going
    3 years ago

    If it helps I have suffered from migraines since is was a child but during both my pregnancies I was migraine free without meds! I also get them around my period and I feel they are also weather related. The changes of seasons is a difficult time for me as well. Maybe u will also be migraine free as well? It’s the only time I can remember not having head pain in my life! Good luck

  • Pateena
    3 years ago

    I try and figure how to get over, through or around the wall. For me there is ALWAYS more than one way. If I need to mourn or grieve then I do and I get angry too ;o).
    I don’t take meds. Nothing every worked. I have a son who also has migraines. Seeing him suffer is hard for me.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Pateena, watching our children suffer is always worse than anything we can go through on our own. He’s fortunate to have someone who understands his struggle so intimately, on his side. Thanks for being part of the community! -Warmly, Donna ( team)

  • anonbutanon
    3 years ago

    I struggle with grief from time to time over this ‘life’. My faith gets me through. I just keep thinking that this is temporary and that soon I’ll be able to experience things I’ve had to give up, including children. But it is hard. I do try to focus on the little things. like yesterday’s fascinating weather: sun, sprinkles, thunder, sun, hail, sun again, sprinkles, downpour, gorgeous night. Like I said, fascinating. Maybe in this way there has been some blessings, some good lessons learned. I know how to get every bit of living out of the few hours that my head allows each day. But I’ve always said that even if I was in an iron lung, I could be okay if the mirror was angled right for reading. Yep. Weirdo here I guess. There are times when I get truly despondent and want to stay in bed…and do! But they pass and I get back to positive-thinking. Which, in it’s way, is normal for everyone. Making me feel not so different.

  • thisisendless
    3 years ago

    I’m so sorry you are experiencing a setback. For me it is “symptom switching” or a new ailment. At the moment my migraines are mostly controlled but I keep getting panic attacks and anxiety. We have gone through all the non-benzo meds for this and I keep having adverse reactions. I am now back on Lyrica, which turns me into a fat, nauseated, zombie. But at least I don’t have that constricting ball of stress in my chest.

    I am weaning off Nortriptyline right now, and I was wondering if it would get bad towards the end. I have been taking it for about 6 years I think. Currently just dropped from 80mg to 70mg.

    What I hate is when I think I have found the answer but then the med fails after I have a good period of wellness,or gives me an adverse reaction so I cannot continue it when it seemed to be helping. “Here we go again.” Back to where I started.

    I wish you the best in your grieving process, and a successful end to your amitriptyline use.

  • Janet
    3 years ago

    To be completely honest.. I’m completely defeated. We moved back to the desert for warm and dry and its been almost a year.. after suffering 40 years.. with breaks at ruined, however not since 2002… I’ve tried so many avenues.. all dead ends. Defeated and totally lost all how. I seldom dress or leave the house. List my friends.. husband is frustrated… migraines destroy everything 🙁
    Respectfully, Janet

  • ndw6888
    3 years ago

    Janet, I’m so sorry that you’re in the brunt of impossibly hard things. We’ve moved 3 times in the past year tryingvto find weather I can survive in, and I’ve only struggled with chronic migraines for 2 years, not 40. I hope you find a space of at least lessened pain soon.



  • Adorabelle
    3 years ago

    I’m not sure if the grief ends, I think you just get used to it and then something causes it to flair up again. When I finally found a good headache specialist, he recommended (basically required) that I also find a therapist. i found the cognitive behavioral therapy to be really helpful. It was nice to just have all of my sadness and grief validated (conveniently, my therapist also was a migraineur, so she got it). I think we get so used to fighting through our days that we don’t allow ourselves a “pity party” or to feel like victims to our own brains. I found having someone validating all of these feelings I was trying to just get over was really helpful and then I could focus more on how I was going to navigate my migraine life and adjust the expectations I had for my life.

  • Tamara
    3 years ago

    I am having a huge problem with the grieving as well. I can’t seem to get pass it at all. I cry every day about missing riding and not being realible.

    I was on amotripyline years ago (and now trying it again). It took me a LONG time to come off safely. I literally had to start cutting the pills and went down to 1/8 of a pill and still had to go every 2 days …. twice a week, once a week and then finally was able to stop.

    Hope it is easier for you. Vitamin D helps my blue mood sometimes, other than that – reminder yourself I’m (and others) are in the same boat and you are not alone.

  • Anna Eidt author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Tamara.

    I think the crying is a totally normal and healthy response to loss… sometimes I’m just so tired of it though.

    I might try cutting the pills down the road…

    SO important to remember we are not alone 🙂

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