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Coping with sadness

Coping with cancer

This page is about coping with sadness when you have cancer. There is information about


Why you may feel sad

It’s completely natural to feel sad after you have lost something or been disappointed by something. So after you have been diagnosed with cancer, it’s normal to feel sadness. It may be there all the time. Or the sadness may come and go, depending on what else is happening in your life.

You may feel sad that you have lost your good health and ability to do some things that you enjoy. It may be the uncertainty of the future that upsets you most. People often say they are depressed instead of sad. But sadness is different from depression. Sadness is a natural part of any loss, grief, change or disappointment.


The pressure to be positive

Some people feel as though they should not feel sad, and try to hide it. You may feel as if you should be positive and make it easier on the people around you by acting as though you feel happy. Friends and family may want you to be like this because they find it hard to cope with their own sadness about your illness. But remember that how you feel is most important right now.

Pretending that you are fine all the time uses a lot of energy and will make you feel very tired. It can also create distance between you and the people close to you. If everyone is trying too hard to act as if all is well, they can’t express how they really feel.

It is important that you don’t always try to hide your sadness. This can be difficult at times, especially if you have children or grandchildren around and don’t want to upset them. It isn’t easy to decide what to tell them, especially if they are very young.

But it's a good idea to explain simply why someone close to them is feeling ill or sad today. Our information about talking to children may help you.


Wanting to be left alone

There may be times during your illness when you want to be left alone to sort out your own feelings. This can be hard for family and friends who may not understand how you feel, and want to share this difficult time with you. You can make it easier for them by telling them that

  • You appreciate their support, but you need some time to yourself
  • You don't feel like talking about your illness now
  • You will talk to them when you feel more like talking
  • You still care about them even if you don’t want to talk now

Talking about your sadness

You may be surprised that others are happy to support and listen to you once they know how sad you feel. People can support you by just letting you feel sad, letting you cry if you feel like it, and not trying to change how you feel.

If you would like to share your feelings with someone, but don’t feel you’re able to talk to your friends and family, it may help to talk to a counsellor.

We have a list of counselling organisations and information about what counselling is and how it can help you.


If your sadness doesn’t go away

If you have feelings of sadness that won’t go away for longer than two weeks and you’re finding it hard to feel good about anything, then you may be depressed. It is important to recognise this difference between normal levels of sadness and clinical depression. But it’s hard to do this when you are in the middle of it. Other people close to you may recognise signs of depression before you do. If someone close to you is worried that you may be depressed, it is sensible to listen and get a professional opinion.

So, you may need to seek some medical advice if you are depressed. There is more information about depression in this section. There is also information about coping with sadness.

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Updated: 4 July 2014