Letting people know and riding the shockwave

People will have different responses on hearing your news. My wife and I decided we wanted to tell the people closest to us that I’d been (mis)diagnosed with ALS ourselves, even if by phone.

We discovered a range of reactions:

  • Some people listened and said little, yet were profoundly supportive
  • Some people asked questions to manage their shock
  • Some people went very quiet, not knowing what to say
  • Some people were philosophical
  • Some people dived in with advice
  • Some people melted into despair

The range of reactions to your news might be quite broad. We quickly discovered that whist delivering this news, we needed to take care of people in doing so. Letting the people who care about you know that your life may soon end, will create a shock wave – it’s hard to predict with certainty people’s responses. It’s also not unusual for the person who has the illness to become the strongest person in the picture.

I recently heard a story of a man diagnosed with terminal cancer. He invited his closest friends around for a put-luck dinner and told them the news. Many broke down in tears and he spent most of the night consoling them.

Letting people know and taking care of them:

  • Choose the right moment where possible
  • Prepare them first, “I have some news, that’s not good news…”
  • Let them know the key facts – symptoms and diagnosis
  • Let them know what happens from here forwards – tests, treatments etcs.
  • Describe the space you’re in – especially important if you’re feeling positive and strong as they might assume otherwise.
  • Let them know how they can support you, be specific

Regardless of people’s responses to your news, there’ll be a shockwave to ride. Think of it as a measure of how much people care for you which, I suggest, is something to be acknowledged and to take comfort in.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.