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5 Reminders for Anyone Who's Received Bad News About Their Health

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If you live with a health condition, bad news can feel constant, but difficult news about your health can still come as a shock.  If you’ve just received bad news about your health, here are five things to remember as you cope with this challenging new information.

1. You don’t have to know how you feel about the news.

You may have pictured taking in this news differently and knowing exactly how you feel as you navigate this new information, but there’s no “right” way to feel at this moment.  You may even feel a mixture of relief, frustration, sadness and anger or experience so many complex emotions at once that you can’t identify how you feel.  When people check in with you and ask you how you’re feeling, it’s OK to tell them that you don’t know yet.  Your feelings will become clearer with time as you fully process the news.

2. You’re allowed to feel relieved or at peace after receiving bad or difficult health news.

Your loved ones might assume that you feel upset about the drastic news you’ve received about your health, and they might expect you to react negatively, but it’s completely fine to feel relieved that you finally have answers or feel calm about the news.  Although your emotions may fluctuate with time, staying in a positive headspace isn’t uncommon and may actually help you cope.  You may feel like there’s something “wrong” with you for not being sad or angry, but your relief and acceptance are just as valid as the frustration and fear you may have anticipated feeling.

3. You don’t have to find a silver lining right now (or at all).

If grieving your bad health news takes time, your loved ones might encourage you to “stay positive” or “find a silver lining” — but it’s OK if you can’t.  If you’re surrounded by healthy friends and family, chances are good that they don’t fully understand what you’re going through as you process this information.  Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with people who try to force positivity on you when you just want to experience emotions on your own terms — tell them that while you appreciate their perspective, it isn’t easy to hear right now.  After all, you just received life-changing news, so don’t push positivity on yourself or accept “toxic positivity” from others if it doesn’t truly help you.

4. If you’re struggling to cope with a new diagnosis or worsening health, you have support.

You may not personally know many people who’ve received drastic news about their health, but if you do, feel free to reach out to them for support.  If you don’t know anyone who might understand you, join health communities here on The Mighty or search for in-person support groups for people with similar conditions.  Even if your loved ones can’t support you in the ways you need, there are plenty of people who do understand the struggles you’re facing right now — you just have to find them.  Once you connect with people in similar circumstances, you’ll probably feel far safer to share your thoughts and feelings and take comfort in your née support system.

5. It’s OK if you need a more professional support system after receiving bad news about your health.

If your health conditions are mainly physical, you may not have considered seeking out mental health help, but as you process this hard news, you may want to consider seeing a therapist.  Going to therapy to cope with the emotional ramifications of your changing health may seem like a drastic step to take, but if you notice that your feelings about your health are affecting other areas of your life, it may be worth your time.  The right therapist can help you process all of the emotions surrounding your bad health news and provide you with healthy coping mechanisms that will help you adjust to this new phase of life.  If you can access mental health care but worry about the stigma surrounding it, remember that so many others in similar circumstances seek out therapy.  Including a professional in your support system is completely OK — and they may help you work through your complicated health news in a healthier, more fulfilling way.

Getty photo by Monkey Business Images.

Originally published: September 14, 2021
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