We all have our concerns about health – some of us more than others, for sure, but even those of us who live long, healthy lives occasionally fall ill. What we hope for, in the main, is that we can get through a long life without receiving bad news from a doctor. The kind of revelation that involves them asking you to take a seat, before closing their door and beginning a sentence with a phrase like “There’s no easy way to say this…”
“Bad news” in this context may, or may not, mean a terminal diagnosis. There are, we can agree, many pieces of information that can fit into the category of “bad news” when it comes to our health. And while plenty of us manage to live our lives without hearing such news – for ourselves or our loved ones – it is essential to know how to handle it if and when it does come.
Let yourself feel what you feel
We hear a lot about the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Many of us imagine that these stages are always how grief will be felt, and that they will come in this order, but the truth is that humans are variable creatures. You might experience exactly the sentiments set out above, or you may feel a steely resolve to beat this problem, even to prove a doctor wrong. The main thing is to not fight whatever feeling you experience at this point; it’s your natural reaction, and you need to process it.
Life will go on, for the moment at least
One fact acknowledged by most people who have experienced bad medical news is that, after the initial impact, things quickly become prosaic. While you may be living with a severe medical issue, you are still living. Grocery shopping still needs to be done, and the world will go on around you. You may have a recovery period ahead and need to deal with medical rental companies for the equipment that allows you to convalesce at home. All of these details may seem minor when set against the bigger picture, but keeping hold of the small details is a way to retain some sense of normality, so don’t junk them.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best
It is extremely difficult to retain a sense of balance when you’ve received news that could be the worst you ever get. Even more disheartening is when you look to the future and consider that you might not have long left, or that you might find your way of life severely restricted at least. While you have the chance, it is essential to prepare for that future – whether that entails setting your affairs in order or making changes to your living conditions – while not giving up hope of a turn for the better. People have recovered from dire diagnoses, and keeping that hope alive will help you battle on.
No one wants to be on the receiving end of bad news, but it is how we react to such news that decides how the next steps go. You can build a better future if you know where to look.