The damaging effects of asbestos exposure don’t only impinge on a person’s physical health. Victims of asbestos-related illnesses suffer psychologically, as well. In this exclusive ongoing series, we’ll shed some light on that other side of terminal illness by examining the impact of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases on mental and emotional health-not just for patients but for their loved ones as well.
Some of the topics we’ll cover include: psychiatric conditions common to victims of mesothelioma cancer and other related conditions, how to share news of a terminal diagnosis with loved ones, coping with grief and loss, types and stages of the bereavement process, self-help techniques for managing mental health during treatment and more.
Mesothelioma and Mental Health-PART NINE
Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult things you’ll have to do after receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma is share that awful news with the people you love. Even though you may not immediately feel up to the dreaded task of telling family and friends that you have a terminal disease, it is generally advised that patients begin sharing their diagnosis as soon as they’re able in order to build the support network necessary for enduring the journey through mesothelioma treatment and beyond.
When, How and Where to Share Your Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
The logistics of telling loved ones about your illness may not be the first thing that pops into your head when planning “the talk”-but when, how and where you do can have a significant impact on the experience for both yourself and your support persons. It’s important to choose day and time that is open and unconstructed by personal schedules or pressing matters. You should also set an established time and location that can be clearly communicated and stressed as urgent. It is almost always advisable to avoid having highly emotional discussions like this in a public place or anywhere else where you an your loved ones do not feel entirely safe and comfortable.
The how part of telling family and friends about a diagnosis of mesothelioma is far more individualized (and complex) that choosing when and where to have the discussion. Each person must decide the best words to use when breaking such hard-to-hear news. Often, mesothelioma patients report that a direct approach-using simply the words I have mesothelioma-is easiest and best for the speaker and the audience.
Being Prepared for Loved Ones’ Reactions
It’s very important to remember, before having “the talk”, that you loved ones will have their own-likely emotional-reactions to the news. Hearing that a spouse, child, parent or close friend has received a diagnosis of mesothelioma or any other terminal condition tends to be a highly traumatic experience. While it is common for family and friends of the terminally ill to feel they should “be strong” for the victim, that is rarely done so easily as it may sound.
Remember that your loved ones will experience shock and grief in their own ways-whether visible or not-and also that they will probably feel compelled to hide those types of emotions from you to some degree or another. Let them know that it’s okay to share in the grieving process with you. And also realize that your family and friends will want to help you in any way that they can. Make things easier for them and yourself by being open and direct about what kind of support you need-and what you don’t need or find particularly helpful, as well.