Advice for you: Emotionally navigating the diagnosis
You've gotten the news that someone near and dear to you has cancer. And, though, you're keeping it together in front of your loved one and the world, you're freaking out inside. We get it. We've been there. We connected with New York City psychologist Shira Schaktman for advice on how to best navigate these feelings.
1. I just found out my loved one has cancer. I’m feeling overwhelmed with fear & anxiety. How can I calm down?
It is very normal to be fearful and anxious after hearing of a loved one's cancer diagnosis due to feelings of having no control.
One way to alleviate fear and anxiety is to gather knowledge about the particular diagnosis through research and talking to doctors knowledgeable on the subject. Having knowledge you can apply to the particular circumstance will make you feel more in control and therefore, less fearful and anxious.
It will also be helpful to ask your loved one how you can best help them, thereby taking an active role in the process and using your energy in a positive manner. The diagnosed individual will have more positive mental health with the knowledge they are loved and supported though this journey.
It likely also would be worthwhile to seek out your own support system, because you will need someone to talk through your feelings with as your loved one is transitioning through the cancer diagnosis.
2. I feel like I have no control over how this turns out. What can I do?
Feeling out of control is a common emotion when coping with a loved one's cancer diagnosis. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself so you can be a positive and reliable support for your loved one. Taking care of yourself might entail seeing a therapist, exercising, and doing things to make yourself as happy as possible during this time.
3. Which emotions should I prepare to feel after this initial shock?
You are likely to feel several emotions after the initial shock of a loved one’s cancer diagnosis. It is very normal to feel sadness, anger and fear. The sadness and fear stem from uncertainty of the outcome. The anger is related to the lack of control you have over the diagnosis and treatment.
Shira Schaktman, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Manhattan, NY and Princeton, NJ. Dr. Schaktman provides confidential psychotherapy, coaching and consultation services to individuals and couples. Her therapeutic approach is strength-based and includes a combination of support, exploration, guidance, feedback and concrete recommendations.