Coping with uncertainty and adapting to change
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- palliative care
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Adapting to palliative care
Being told that you have a terminal illness is shocking and upsetting, even if you expected the diagnosis. Everyone reacts to the news in their own way. The response can be a little like the grief reaction you experience when a loved one dies. You may pass through stages of denial, guilt, anger and real sadness before you eventually come to terms with your illness.
It’s important to remember that the emotions you are experiencing are a totally normal response to the difficult situation you are in. Many people find that the shock and denial that they feel on initial diagnosis may change over the subsequent hours, days and weeks to be replaced by intense feelings that can be difficult to deal with. It is not unusual to deny the illness and pretend it isn’t happening.
Many people feel incredibly angry or guilty because of their lifestyle choices, or because they will be leaving loved ones behind. Others may feel a sense of numbness and detachment from what is going on. It is common to experience a loss of control and feel frustrated with your body, the medical staff and even loved ones.
It can be difficult to cope with the overpowering emotions but as time passes the feelings should become less intense, so that with support you can learn to accept and deal with your illness and enjoy the time you have left.
It’s good to talk
Lots of people with life-limiting conditions find it helpful to talk to friends and family that they both love and trust. Sharing can help those around you gain a better insight into your feelings and your thought processes, so that they cut you a little slack if you’re grumpy, irritable or distant.
If you find it difficult to talk openly to those close to you, maybe because you are worried about upsetting or scaring them, then it can help to speak to a professional. A doctor, nurse, counsellor or bereavement support service can provide a dispassionate but supportive listening ear and help you work through your own feelings, without the fear of distressing others.
Sharing and caring
When you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, the future may seem uncertain and frightening. Talking to others who are going through the same thing can be very helpful. You can share experiences, exchange advice or just moan and laugh together. Ask your healthcare team about support groups in your area, or check out internet forums for a virtual hand-hold twenty-four hours a day.
Not knowing how your disease will develop, how you will feel or how long you may live can be unsettling and distressing. Again, talking can a great healer. Find out as much as you can from your doctor so that you have the information you need. Talk to your loved ones about how you are feeling, so that you can identify the things in life that are important to you.
With the right support, both personal and professional, you can work through these overwhelming emotions, learn to cope with the uncertainty you face and live well for as long as you can.
Find out more about the range of palliative care services that we offer throughout London.