Living With Grief as a Cancer Survivor

Dealing with grief is different for everybody. Unfortunately, living with a rare disease can bring sadness and grief into one’s life. That is why the Livestrong Foundation has offered a new approach on handling it for cancer survivors. While it is impossible to find one method to overcome grief that works for everyone, the foundation hopes that this advice can better the lives of those who have lived through, are still living with, or have lost someone to cancer.

Brittany Neece

Brittany Neece works at the Austin Center for Grief and Loss as a clinical therapist and support group coordinator. She has created a new method to approach grief. Rather than the standard five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), she believes that there are three phases, and they are:

  1. What is lost?
  2. What is left?
  3. What is possible

She suggests this for those living with cancer, as a diagnosis can feel like a life-shattering, unshakable event. When receiving a cancer diagnosis, Brittany recommends this thought process in order to best deal with the grief.

She speaks of the two most common reactions to a cancer diagnosis: obsessing over every step of one’s cancer treatment and journey, or simply shrugging everything off with an “I’ll be fine.” Both of these responses are due to a loss of control. When one receives a cancer diagnosis, it feels like being unable to control not only one’s life, but their own body. This is an extremely difficult reality to come to terms with.

When Your Loved One Has Cancer

Not only does a diagnosis deeply affect the one receiving it, but it impacts that person’s loved ones as well. Seeing someone that you love so much going through something so difficult can be devastating. It’s common to want to help or make the pain go away. Brittany lists some things you can do to help.

Firstly, realize there is no simple solution. Widely used advice like “there’s always a silver lining” may not come across well; it can seem insensitive even if that was not the intention. Next, be present. Just be there for the people you love; ask how they want to be supported. Lastly, it is essential to comprehend that their role in the family may change.

Brittany also has advice on how to start a conversation about grief. Honest and open conversations are often a very helpful part of the healing process. She suggests having meaningful conversations, informing people on what will help you, and helping to educate loved ones.

Moving Forward

In the end, there is no one, sure-fire way to deal with grief. Brittany stresses the importance of not rushing the healing process, meeting people halfway, and that it is okay to have a new normal. It may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, there will always be support and people to help you along.

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