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Coping with sadness

Find out what you can do to help yourself cope with sadness when you have cancer.

It’s normal to feel sadness after you have been diagnosed with cancer. It could be sadness that you have lost your good health and ability to do some things that you enjoy. It might be the uncertainty of the future that upsets you most.

It may be there all the time. Or the sadness may come and go, depending on what else is happening in your life.

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.

Pressure to be positive

You might feel you should try and hide your sadness and be positive to make it easier on the people around you. Friends and family might find it hard to cope with their own sadness about your illness.

But remember that the most important thing at this time is how you feel. Pretending you are fine all the time takes energy and is tiring. It also creates 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.

Showing your sadness can be especially hard around children or grandchildren. 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.

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
  • don't feel like talking about your illness now
  • will talk to them when you feel more like talking
  • 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.

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 might be depressed.

It is important to recognise this difference between normal levels of sadness and clinical depression. But it’s hard to 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.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.