Coping With Cancer – A Family View

An often forgotten feature of dealing with cancer is what I call ‘after the event’. That is, when your loved one has passed on. The coming months are a particular difficult time for such people.

There is a real danger that during this time the grieving person resorts to addictive substances to get through the trauma. This is understandable but not always the best course of action. You can find myself drinking far too much alcohol (a lot more than the recommended amount per week) for the months following the death.

My experience is that you will then gradually come down to a reasonable level. I’m not advocating drinking as a way of coping. But I’m realistic in that some people will go down this root, so be aware of such behaviour. [I found myself going this way after my father’s death in February 2005.]

Being angry and crying, even at the same time, are very common emotions following the event. Don’t feel embarrassed by this. It is perfectly normal. Just try to avoid hurting yourself and others! I found that walking in the countryside was helpful, especially up and down hills. The physical effort will make you feel better and get rid of some of that pent up emotion.

Family & friends should keep a close eye on each other if possible. Following such a trauma it is often the case that people will shut themselves away and shun any social contact. Pick up the telephone and call each other. Keeping in touch with someone who has lost a husband, wife or partner is very, very important.

They have been used to being with a particular person, often for decades, so try to imagine the shock when that person is taken away from them; especially if it is sudden. Try to arrange some event (the theatre, a film etc) so that they will still feel part of the ‘family’ and it will get them socialising again.

It is natural to be more attentive immediately after the event but don’t let it slip into long periods between contact in the future.

They say ‘Time Heals’. I say that ‘Time makes it hurt less’.

At the end of the day death is part of life. We just need to learn to cope with it.

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