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Talking to family and friends about your diagnosis

There are many reasons why you, your family and friends might not want to talk about your illness. You may feel awkward or embarrassed about discussing something so personal, fearful about facing the future, or worried about upsetting each other.

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However, not talking about your illness can lead to feelings of isolation and make problems worse. Many people also find that finally having difficult conversations with family and friends brings a sense of relief.

There’s no right or wrong way to discuss your illness and any issues it creates, but the following information provides some helpful guidance.

Speak to loved ones individually

You’ll have different relationships with your family and friends, so you may need to speak to each of them about your illness in different ways. Some may prefer to sit down with you for an in-depth, serious talk. Others may prefer it if you open up a conversation when they’re more relaxed, perhaps when you’re watching TV or cooking together.

Humour can also play a role. Being lighthearted about your situation with a family member or friend may help you cover tough topics. You might just need to let your loved ones know that you’re ready to talk when they are.

With most difficult conversations, honesty is usually the best policy. Don’t be worried about showing your emotions. You may find the act of opening up liberating and soothing.

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Speak to loved ones as a group

You may find it easier to talk to your family and friends in one large group or a number of smaller ones. This will save you repeating the same information, which can be emotionally draining.

This may also encourage family and friends to be more open about how they are feeling, because if one person speaks or asks you a question, more people are likely to follow.

However, too many questions at once may be overwhelming. You might prefer to send a group email to let people know about your illness and whether you’re open to talking about it. You may find it’s a lot easier to handle conversations and set limits for loved ones this way.

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Tell a trusted family member or friend to spread your news

You may want to tell people about your illness and open up a conversation about it, but don’t feel able to do this directly. In this case, ask a family member or close friend to be your ‘spokesperson’ who passes messages back and forth.

By doing this, you can keep family and friends up to date without wearing yourself out emotionally. Sharing information in this way will allow you to respond to people’s questions in your own time.

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Ask a professional to be present

You may decide that the easiest way to speak with family and friends is to ask a professional involved in your care to talk on your behalf. Otherwise you may decide that just having them present will give you more confidence to talk about your illness. You could also rehearse what to say with them beforehand.

Choose what’s right for you. No professional will be able to express exactly how you’re feeling to your family and friends. Also, your family and friends may find it difficult to speak openly with a stranger in the room.

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Talk online

Another option you might want to explore is communication through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. This can be an excellent way to send out short updates and chat about your situation from the comfort of your own home.

You may want to select who can and who can’t read what you post to avoid a lot of people asking you questions or commenting. If you’re not sure how to change the settings on your social media accounts, ask a family member or friend to help you.

Alternatively, you may want to create your own private website at CaringBridge  . It’s a charity that sets up free personalised websites for people with serious medical conditions. You can then choose who gets your personal website address and password so they can read updates and send you messages of support.

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Telling my friends and family


External websites

CaringBridge   – support for your health journey

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