How to Help a Loved One Cope: 5 Common Breast Cancer Diagnosis Emotions

happy face balls with different emotions

After a breast cancer diagnosis, there are 5 common emotions people usually experience.

These emotions include…

  • Shock
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger

If you have a friend or family member who’s recently been diagnosed, it can be difficult to help her navigate these emotions.

After all, what can you say or do to truly make someone feel better after receiving this type of news.

Unfortunately, not everything you say/do will make someone’s battle with breast cancer easier.

However, choosing carefully how you respond to these common emotions can give a loved one the support and encouragement she needs.

Keep reading to discover our tips for helping your loved one cope with the following 5 emotions.

Emotion #1: Shock

Nobody expects to leave a doctor’s appointment with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Therefore, it’s likely that your loved ones will leave an appointment feeling shocked or at a loss for words about the news they received.

When someone is in a shocked state, it’s often best to…

  • Sit quietly with your loved one. Let her do the talking if she wants to.
  • Provide support. Give your friend/family member the time to process the diagnosis while you help out with other things, like taking care of kids or cleaning the house.
  • Help your loved one feel safe and secure. While in a shocked state, things can become overwhelming very quickly. Remind your loved one that she is safe and that you will be there to provide comfort and support.

Emotion #2 – Confusion

Chalkboard question mark

No one deserves to get cancer.

For this reason, your loved one might be confused, wondering “How could this happen?” or “Why me?”

During this emotional time, it’s vital to…

  • Remind your loved one that she didn’t do anything to deserve this. It may sound silly at first, but it’s always a good reminder that sometimes bad things happen in life for no good reason.
  • Help your loved one put the puzzle pieces together. It’s possible that your loved one ended up with cancer for no logical reason. However, it’s also possible that she was genetically predisposed to breast cancer. Having a better understanding of why your loved one developed cancer might help bring some peace into her life. Uncovering a family member who also had cancer and won her battle might bring comfort to your loved one.
  • Be a listening ear when your loved one asks questions. You might not know all the answers, but providing a listening ear to your friend/family member who has so many questions is a great outlet for her.

Emotion #3 – Sadness

A sudden cancer diagnosis can easily bring up feelings of sadness.

After all, your loved one might have to leave work, cancel a vacation, miss family events, etc., in order to get treatment.

In order to help a friend/family member who is feeling sadness, we recommend that you…

  • Make yourself available. Be willing to sit quietly with a friend, go out for coffee, or pick up your phone to chat with your loved one. Simply being available when the person you care about is experiencing grief is very important.
  • Send your loved one an uplifting card. It’s amazing how much a simple card with a thoughtful message can do. Grab a pen, a piece of paper, and remind your loved one about how much you care for her.
  • Grab a box of tissues. One of the best ways to release pent-up sadness is a good, old-fashioned cry session. Make the time to sit with your friend, uncover the reasons behind her grief, and allow yourself to be vulnerable and share in her grief.

Emotion #4 – Fear

elderly woman looking worried

Thanks to donations, research, and hardworking volunteers, doctors, and scientists, the prognosis for many breast cancer patients is wonderful.

That being said, a breast cancer diagnosis often makes people think the worst, which causes a lot of fear.

When a loved one with a new breast cancer diagnosis is feeling fearful, it’s a good idea to…

  • Talk about her diagnosis. After testing, most doctors can determine if a person has a good prognosis or not. If your loved one has a good prognosis, remind her that she is strong and able to win her cancer battle.
  • Put action steps in place. Fear often occurs because someone feels she is losing control. With permission of her doctor, help your loved one gain back control with a special cancer-fighting diet plan, supplement plan, etc. Having a little control can help the one you love ward off feelings of fear.
  • Hit the books. Fear of the unknown is a very scary thing. In order to help your loved one curb this type of fear, get educated together. Read about breast cancer. Go with your loved one to doctor’s appointments. Ask questions. Every piece of info you get can help put both you and your loved ones worries to rest.

Emotion #5 – Anger

Finally, it’s likely that your loved one will feel anger–and she has every right to feel that way!

While anger is usually an emotion we try to avoid, experiencing it can actually help with the healing process. In fact, anger is a motivating emotion!

If your loved one is angry at her cancer diagnosis, there’s a good change that she’s going to be more motivated to conquer her battle.

To help your loved one express her anger, we suggest you…

  • Set aside time to let your loved one share her honest thoughts. We often have to hide our true emotions so we don’t upset people. This is why letting your friend/family member be real and honest with you about her diagnosis–even if it means screaming, crying, swearing, etc.–is very helpful.
  • Offer constructive ways to release anger. It’s important to remind your friend/family member that there are healthy ways of releasing anger. Let her know it’s ok to hit her pillows, scream at the top of her lungs, do some kickboxing, etc., to channel her inner feelings.
  • Provide support. Sometimes anger causes people to say things or do things that don’t make sense. For instance, your loved one might blame a doctor for her cancer diagnosis. As long as no one is being harmed, stand by your friend’s side and just agree. Once the anger blows over, she’ll realize that not everything she said or did was right. However, in the midst of being angry, your friend doesn’t need an argument, she just needs to know that you have her back.

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