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Coping with the reactions of family and friends

You may find that family members and friends react to your diagnosis in different ways. This may depend on the relationships you already have with them.

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Some people may find it easy to talk about your illness because they’ve been through a lot with you already. Others may prefer to work through issues and problems alone, before getting back to you in their own time.

If they become distant

Another reason why family or friends may not want to talk about your illness is because they don’t want to face up to the reality of losing you. They might even change the subject, or be frightened about both of you getting upset and being unable to cope with the emotions that surface.

Some relatives and friends may feel uncomfortable talking about your illness because they just don’t know what to say or how to react. Your illness may be new to you, but it’s also new to them. This can lead to them acting awkwardly and becoming distant.

If they become overbearing

In contrast, you may find that some people are ready to talk about your illness before you are. If this happens, don’t let anyone rush you into opening up before you’re ready. Tell them you will speak to them when you feel up to it, or ask someone you trust to do this for you.

Another reaction you might experience is a desire to find out as much as possible about how you’re feeling, to a point where it may feel unwanted. People may also try to be too helpful, wanting to do every little thing for you. This is something you, or someone you trust, may need to manage in a polite but firm way.

Make use of offers of help if you need it

After hearing about your diagnosis, family and friends may offer you lots of practical help with tasks such as shopping, cleaning, cooking and childcare. If you would like some help, try to make clear what support you need.

Family and friends often want a job to do. However, don’t feel like you have to give people one if it makes you feel uncomfortable or you want your own space. You must do what’s right for you.

Over time, the reactions of your family and friends to your illness may become less intense. Letting others know when you’re happy to talk and how you’re feeling will help to make a potentially bumpy ride a lot smoother.

Telling my friends and family


External websites

Relate  – specialist relationship counsellors

Counselling Directory   – find a counsellor or psychotherapist near you

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