Cancer can cause a wide range of feelings including grief, anger, and uncertainty. You and your partner may both have these feelings but may have them at different times. You may each have good days when you feel positive, and bad days when your fears and worries are stronger.
To begin with, you may find the diagnosis difficult to take in. Everything can seem unreal. You might think it can’t be true. You may feel numb and find it difficult to express any emotion. This is natural. It can take time to take in the news and get over the shock.
Some people appear to deny what is happening as they just want to carry on as normal. Doing this is a way of coping and may give you some time to adjust. But it can also stop you from getting the help you need. If you are struggling, it can help to think about your needs. Then think about what support from others you would like.
Grief and loss
You may feel sad for the loss of the life you and your partner had before cancer. You may feel you have lost the certainty that you had about the future. It’s important to allow yourself to grieve for these losses.
Anxiety and uncertainty
You’ll probably feel anxious about the future, the treatment and how you’re both going to cope. Cancer can take away your sense of security and control. Feeling uncertain about the future can be one of the most difficult things to deal with.
It can be helpful to recognise when you have these feelings. And look after yourself when you feel this way. Try to focus on the things you can change or influence. This is better than putting a lot of energy into trying to change things you can’t control.
Many people feel irritable or angry. Anger can hide other feelings, such as fear or sadness. You may direct your anger at your partner because you’re close to them. You may both feel resentful of the changes that the cancer has made to your lives.
Feeling guilty is common. If you have cancer, you may feel guilty about how it has affected your life and the people close to you.
If your partner has cancer, you may feel guilty about finding it hard to cope or about feeling angry or resentful.
When people feel guilty, they tend to hide their feelings and worries more. This can make it difficult for people to understand what you are going through.
Sadness is a natural response when you or someone you care about has cancer. Everyone has good and bad days. It’s not reasonable to expect yourself to feel positive or happy all the time. It’s important to be kind to yourself and look after yourself when you feel sad.
Sadness can come and go. You may feel sad even at times when you would usually enjoy yourself.
Sometimes people can become depressed. Symptoms of depression can include:
- feeling sad or numb for weeks or more without any relief
- struggling to enjoy things you would usually get pleasure from
- sleeping problems
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
If you think you or your partner may be depressed, talk to your GP. There are effective treatments that could help. You can also contact a support organisation.
We have more information about how to manage difficult feelings.