You’ll find that everyone reacts to the news of your illness differently. They may not know how to act around you. They might feel confused, sad, shocked, helpless, or angry. It can take time to work through all of these feelings. No matter who it is, it can be helpful to let them know that just being there for you is enough. They don’t have to try to solve your problems. In fact, they can’t solve all your problems. Being a willing ear and just acting normally around you are two of the best things they could do.
When you recognize that everyone needs to deal with their emotions in their own way, it becomes a lot easier for both you and your loved ones to be understanding. Most of us feel comfort when we share our feelings, but sometimes it can take time to express those feelings.
Understanding The Reactions Of Other People
It’s normal for your relationships with others to change based on their reactions to you. Some people have a very hard time with the idea of losing you. Others simply pull back because they’re not sure what they should say or do to help you out. When this happens, understand that it’s not about you; it’s about the other person learning to cope with their complex feelings. If you’re in this situation, you might want to talk to the person about what you’re noticing. Remind them that you are still the same person and that it’s OK to ask questions and tell you how they feel.
You also shouldn’t feel as though you have to help the person deal with their feelings. You definitely have enough on your plate already. Family dynamic can vary widely. Some people simply don’t have close relationships with the people in their families. If this is the case in your family, you may find it helpful to have someone on the medical team or a trained counselor act as a mediator. This person can help you communicate your desires and help the family set some goals.No one wants to talk about the details of your illness and what it means.
However, it’s known that your care is likely to go more smoothly if everyone feels free to open up about their issues.Sometimes, it’s even more difficult to talk to the friends and family that you are closest to. These tips will help you talk with your loved ones.
Spouses and Partners
When terminal illness strikes, relationships change. Some couples lean on each other and grow closer together as a result of the treatment. Other couples start to fall apart. Stress tends to come from:
- Figuring out how to give or get support.
- Learning to deal with complex feelings.
- Worrying about money problems.
- Trying to communicate effectively.
- Switching roles in the partnership.
- Making important decisions.
- Dealing with changes to daily routines.
- Shifts in social life.
You’re dealing with some serious issues now, and some people find it a lot easier to talk about these things that others. You’ll have to figure out a way to communicate, even if it’s hard. Try these suggestions.Get help talking to each other. It’s so important to keep the lines of communication open. If you or your partner is having a hard time opening up, have a counselor or social worker help make this happen.
Both people are likely to experience guilt about the situation. Your partner may feel bad about leaving your side, but you should remember that you weren’t around each other 24/7 before you got the disease. You don’t have to be together every waking moment now. Time away allows your partner to refresh and meet his or her own needs. Expect changes in your sex life. Body changes, lack of health and emotional stress can make sex difficult. Accept this, talk to each other about it, and get help if you need it.
Children know when something is different, and you want to work hard to keep the trust of your children or grandchildren. Talk to them about your cancer and what’s happening to you. Let them know that it isn’t their fault. It’s just something that happens sometimes. They might be scared that you won’t be there to take care of them any longer, and they might feel lonely or resentful because you aren’t spending as much time with them as you used to.
Let them know that all these feelings are normal. Your child might become more attached to you. He or she might start acting out in school or at home. It’s always a good idea to let the teacher or other caregiver know what is happening at home. Keep talking to your kids. For example:
- Tell the truth. Let them know that you’re sick and the doctors are doing their best to make you feel better.
- Let them know that the cancer is not their fault and that it’s not contagious. They can’t catch it from you and they can’t spread it to their friends.
- Remind them of how much you love them. Do this often.
- Encourage them to express their feelings. Let them know that it’s normal to feel angry, sad, or anything else they might be feeling.
- Use language that’s age-appropriate and easy to understand.
- Allow them to ask all of their questions and answer these questions honestly.
- Reassure them that there are many people who love them and that they will be taken care of.
The tips above are helpful for teenagers as well. When they hear the truth about the illness, they don’t feel as much guilt and stress. However, some teens can also withdraw from the family and try to avoid talking. Some might get into trouble as a way of dealing with the situation. Try to:
- Give them space, especially if they’re picking up extra responsibilities around the house due to your illness.
- Allow them the time to deal with feelings, whether they need to do this alone or with their friends.
- Encourage them to continue their life. They should keep going to school and continue participating in the activities they’ve always loved.
- Get your child his or her own counselor to speak with if necessary. Make sure that your child has someone to turn to.
If you have children who have grown, you may find that your relationship with them changes as well. You may find that you’re in the uncomfortable situation of having to ask for help rather than giving it to your child. You may feel like a burden or feel bad about making your child feel stress. It can be especially difficult if you had a rocky relationship to start out with. Adult children of cancer patients have their own list of troubles. Watching a parent die forces them to confront their own mortality. It can become increasingly stressful to balance the needs of a sick parent, their own children, and the demands of work. Over time, it helps to:
- Include your adult children in the decision-making process.
- Let them know about the future, including your treatment choices and what you want after death.
Openly sharing some of your feelings and hopes for the future can help them deal with your illness. It may also reduce fears and fighting between siblings.