5 Ways to Cope With a Scary Diagnosis
Those who have been told bad news by a doctor know there’s nothing that can prepare you for that moment. Everyone reacts in a different way — some are shocked, some cry, some get angry, and others simply feel disbelief. A scary diagnosis could involve a chronic illness, an unknown prognosis, unfavorable odds, or a terminal condition. Some people are told that they require a life-threatening procedure, chemotherapy, or a lengthy wait for an organ donation of some kind. They may be told they only have a short time to live, that each day will be a struggle, or that life won’t be the same for them. hearing something like this can be detrimental to a person’s emotional well-being. Many will feel lonely and helpless. Because of the toll, this news can take on a person’s mental health, it’s important to find ways to cope. Thankfully, there are resources and support available for those who must cope with a scary diagnosis.
It’s Okay to Grieve
Whether the diagnosis you’ve been given is the worst it can be or not, it’s okay to grieve over what you’ve been told. Accepting and allowing yourself to feel how you feel and working through those emotions is an important aspect in coping. It’s common to feel as though life has dealt you an unfair hand. You may feel depressed, resentful, and angry. All of these emotions are okay to feel.
Many patients facing serious medical problems grieve the loss of the life they planned to have. They grieve the difficulty of life and the ease at which they used to live. All of these things are natural, and it’s okay to work your way through your grief as you find the coping mechanism that works for you. However, be sure you’re seeking help with the emotions that are becoming toxic.
A scary diagnosis of any kind can lead to many unwelcomed feelings of fear, anger, or sadness. Some may react to their diagnosis by experiencing depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Some may struggle with their spirituality or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a response to their grief.
According to Regis College, many people, from all demographics, commonly even turn to addictive substances to cope with heavy news. They comment on the complexities of substance abuse, stating, “The challenges in preventing and treating substance abuse are manifold, with addiction and abuse coming from a wide range of sources and population groups.” Even if your response doesn’t seem extreme, it can still be helpful to seek counseling before substance abuse becomes a problem.
For those who are experiencing dangerous reactions to their grief, such as substance abuse or depression, it’s important to find a counselor to speak to. Counseling can be found online, in person, or through your hospital. It can be extremely helpful to have a licensed professional teach you coping skills and offer tools specific to your situation.
Lean On Your Loved Ones
Some people may feel closer to their loved ones after hearing a scary diagnosis, while others may push them away. The reality is that the loved ones of someone who experiences a scary diagnosis also go through feelings of grief and loss. It’s important to try to come together as a team in order to feel as strong as you can.
Ask for help. Cry if you need to, and vent if you can. Be honest and try to be understanding if your loved ones say the wrong thing. If you need something from them, ask. Positive thoughts and loving vibes can help get you through your diagnosis and the rest of your journey. Negative thoughts can work against your progress, and loved ones are great at providing positivity when you need it.
It’s great to have support from your medical team, your family, and a counselor, but sometimes it can be incredibly beneficial to find support from others who you can relate to. Those who have been diagnosed with cancer, for instance, often feel a connection through their support group that they don’t find through other means. You might feel validated, understood, and more comfortable being honest in a group of people who have had first-hand experience in what you’re going through. Talk to your doctor, ask your counselor, or search online and you can find a community of people who can provide this sense of connection.
Find Your Outlet
Each person has their own way of finding peace. Whether it’s walking, painting, watching movies, writing, spending time with pets, reading, working out, or doing puzzles, these activities can help give you an outlet for your feelings. Even playing or listening to music has proven to have healing properties for patients.
This outlet can provide a way to get your feelings out, expend stressful energy, or escape from troubling thoughts. Finding your outlet can create a way of coping that is completely unique to you. Many patients with cancer have found that working towards living a full life has helped them to cope, and your outlet can help you to live a life that feels full.
It’s hard to hear a diagnosis that will change your life. A scary diagnosis can mean the loss of normalcy and good health. Going to a counselor, leaning on loved ones, and attending a support group will all provide you with different tools through the coping process. Don’t be afraid to find your own outlet and work through your diagnosis in that way as well. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but finding a way to cope can help navigate those feelings in a healthy way. Eventually, it may be easier to be positive and feel hopeful through your journey as you learn to cope.