How to talk about your condition, so that everyone gets the support they need
Your family may be dealing with their own worries
There are many understandable and fair reasons why you may not want to talk about your condition, but you have probably realised that your family is looking for answers. Most families are eager to do whatever they can to help you. But they may also be experiencing their own feelings of fear, helplessness, confusion or sadness. In so many ways, your family’s shock and potentially unpredictable reactions could even mirror the way you felt when you got the news.
Involving your familyWho should you tell about your diagnosis? Most likely your closest family comes to mind, but everyone is different. No matter how much you love someone, they may not be the best listener or perhaps they cannot seem to keep calm in a stressful situation. So start by deciding whom you want to tell and what you hope to get from them in terms of support.
Here are a few things to consider as you prepare to have these conversations:
- Choose a quiet, comfortable time and place.
- Start with the good news: is treatable and you have a plan.
- Be honest about the seriousness of the disease, but try to not scare them.
- Have realistic expectations. People may react strongly or not know how to be supportive just yet.
- Be sure to pause and let the other person ask questions.
- Be specific about how you are feeling and let them know how they can be supportive.
- Suggest they find a friend to confide in, so that they also get the emotional support they need without also weighing you down. Be honest about how much emotional support you can realistically offer right now.
- Share resources with them, from websites to doctor contact details and printouts, so they can find out more on their own.
- Consider creating a common language around your emotional state, such as a scale from 1 to 10. If you are having a bad day, tell your loved ones that you are at a “7”, so they know you are feeling a bit off and do not blame themselves.
- If people offer help, think about ways they could contribute, from cooking dinner to running an errand. By giving them a role, they will feel like they are making a difference, and you might get some relief too.
- Consider asking someone to join you for your doctor’s visits. They can help you keep track of all the details and even ask questions themselves.
How to talk to kids and grandkidsWorried about how to address the younger people in your family? It can be challenging to explain such a complicated condition to children, but if they are close to you, it may be important that they are informed and feel included early on.You could begin by finding a time when they are calm and in familiar surroundings. As kids have a keen intuition and often already know when something is going on, it’s important to be open and honest with them. If they are having trouble understanding, try using analogies or referencing the “baddies” from a storybook you both know. Don’t forget that children often worry they are to blame when something goes wrong. Even if they don’t ask this directly, make sure they understand that your condition is not their fault.
Your concern about your friends’ and family’s feelings is understandable, but don’t forget to put yourself and your emotional needs first.