Receiving a cancer diagnosis elicits a range of emotions, from shock and confusion, to fear and despair. Every emotion that arises is a normal and natural response to a major life change, and it is critical to accept and allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling in order to progress through each stage. The journey, however, is not a straight line, and not everyone experiences all of these emotions. Everyone also copes with the situation in different ways, sometimes an online mental health counselling session with a psychologist can be helpful. There are five emotional stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – it can help in understanding what one may be going through. Some will go through each stage almost chronologically; others may skip a stage or experience these stages in a different order.
● Shock and denial: During the first stage, the individual is in a state of disbelief and numbed feelings. The most common reaction to a cancer diagnosis is shock and denial – one may feel numb as if you aren’t feeling anything. Individuals usually use denial as a temporary defense. This sensation is usually replaced by heightened awareness of situations. Denial helps us minimize the overwhelming pain of loss during the first stage of the grieving process. Here, we are attempting to survive emotional pain as we process the reality of our loss.
● Pain and guilt: During the second stage, the individual might be filled with guilt. Guilt is a sense of blame and regret that is often difficult to accept and express. Guilt frequently causes people to mentally replay “what if” and “if only” scenarios in order to figure out what they could have done differently.
● Anger and bargaining: During the third stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of misplaced feelings of rage and envy, people who are angry
find it very difficult to care for themselves. Questions like ‘why did this happen to me?’ or ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ are common.
● Depression: During the fourth stage, depression, the grieving person comes to the certainty and reality of the illness. In stage four, there appears to be nothing that can be done to alter the inevitable outcome.
● Acceptance and hope: In this final stage of the grieving process, one begins to accept the loss and feel hope for what tomorrow might bring. It is not that all your other feelings are gone, just more so that you have accepted them and are ready to move on. It is critical that you recognize the impact of this loss on your life and adjust to the new normal. Your life has been irreversibly changed, and it is now up to you to rediscover its significance. Moving on is inextricably linked to the nature of the loss, your ability to
cope with grief, and the support networks in place to help you through difficult times. However, it is important to remember that every individual experiences these emotions differently. There is no time limit on grief and no wrong way to feel. Organizations like Samvedna Care can help one deal with these stages of coping with diagnosis and going through the treatment process. They have experienced, qualified
mental health therapists who can provide online counselling for depression to help cope.
TIMING OF YOUR GRIEF REACTIONS
Periods of intense grief can last up to several months or years. Over time, grief may come in waves that are less intense and less frequent. However, almost certainly most individuals experience sadness and loss. When it comes to the human inner world and mental health, there
are no hard and fast rules. It is normal to be angry after overcoming depression and acceptance. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel; everyone copes with cancer in their own unique way. Furthermore, some people may only go through a few stages, whereas others will go through all five. What is important, is that you allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you are feeling. Try not to suppress or push your emotions away. Use your support system and give yourself time and space to mourn. Cancer affects not only the patient, but also their family and friends. It is a life- altering event that can be challenging to accept. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, remember that there is no “right” way to cope. As you adjust to your new reality, you will most likely experience a range of emotions, but remember that you are not alone.
We, at Samvedna Care, provide safe spaces for people with chronic illnesses through our specialized counselling service for individuals and family members diagnosed with Cancer and other chronic illnesses.