5 Things to Do When a Loved One Is Diagnosed With a Chronic Illness


If your loved one – be that spouse, parent or child – is newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may be at a loss as to what comes next. There will be unanswered questions, fear, anger and sadness. Everyone reacts to situations such as these differently. You may react by going into “take action” mode, while your loved one goes into “shutdown” mode. That’s OK. People are different and need to process in their own way. There are five things you can do though. These five things will help you process the diagnosis and move forward. They will help you support your loved one.

1. Assure your loved one you will be there for them.

Your loved one will likely be fearful of all the changes that await them. Knowing you will be there will certainly comfort them. It is not uncommon for the ill person to feel like they will be abandoned when the going gets tough. Assure them you are there for them no matter what, every step of the way.

2. Get a planner.

This will allow you to plan for doctor appointments, tests, medication routines, etc. With a chronic illness, there are typically lots of doctor appointments. You will often need to reference back to when a doctor was seen or which doctors have been seen. Most often there will also be medications involved. It will be necessary to keep track of which medications need to be taken, refilled or, at a minimum, the history of medications that have been tried.

3. Find a counselor or support group for yourself.

Being able to support your loved one requires strength and understanding. Your own emotions will be up and down through it all. There will be demands on you that were not there before. Being able to process the emotions and the new duties will take time. A counselor or support group can help you through the process. They will equip you with the tools needed to be strong for your loved one. These groups or counselors will also aid you throughout the entire journey as much as possible.

4. Start a journal.

Journaling is important. Most counselors will have you start one. It gives you a chance to process the day-to-day events. Writing is therapeutic. It can ease tension as you write out everything you are feeling or thinking. Reading through what you have written will also allow you to see the situation from an outside perspective. Journaling can also serve as a record of the journey through chronic illness for you and your loved one.

5. Let yourself grieve.

A diagnosis of a chronic illness will change not only your loved one’s life, but yours too. It is a loss. A loss of the life you once knew and a start of a new and unknown journey. It can be an end to the dreams you both had for the future. There will be new dreams that are put in place, but still a loss. Your loved one will need to grieve too. Let them know they are not alone. Help each other through the process. You both start a new life from the one you once knew. Accept the loss and move forward. Not accepting the new and not grieving the loss is not beneficial. It will only tear at your heart and mind. This will make it difficult for you to support and be strong for your loved one.

Doing these five things will be essential to making it through the time period following the diagnosis. Looking for positive things in day-to-day life will also help keep your spirits alive and upbeat. Your loved one is not going through their illness alone. For more insight on how chronic illness affects the family, read my previous post, Shattered Dishes. These loved ones need you to be there. They need reassurance you will be beside them every step of the way. Be strong, be positive and be caring. Your outlook could help them or hurt them. Try to fight the negativity as it will likely be felt by your loved one and could be seen as negativity towards them. Grow an attitude of gratitude and be appreciative for everything. This attitude will help your loved one to stay more positive in their illness. Read about my Appreciation Project to grow that thankful spirit. There will be good days and bad. Support them through it all.

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