How to talk to friends about death and illness if you hate talking about it?
May 16, 2007 3:41 PM Subscribe
I have a hard time talking to my friends about other people's terminal illnesses and/or deaths. I'd like to get better at this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A close friend of the family who has had cancer for a long time took a turn for the worse and died in a very short timespan recently. Most of my friends didn't know her except anecdotally through me. I didn't (and don't) know how to tell them. At the end of last year my Mom had a very bad cancer scare which is now mostly dealt with for now, though it may recur. I find it almost impossible to talk about these things with people other than my family.
I have an okay time dealing with my own emotions on the subject. I am a pretty private person when faced with strong emotions, but I do okay. I talk to my family pretty well and have siblings I'm close to. However, I find it really difficult to talk to my friends -- both close friends and less close friends, as well as co-workers and colleagues -- about this sort of thing, especially while it's going on. On the other hand, I feel that I should say something because I am obviously not myself and people who care about me would want to know why. I feel like I need to change this also because telling people weeks later that someone close to me died last month seems... weird. When my Mom was going to the hospital and later in the hospital I didn't tell anyone until I had to (when I took time off of work). I didn't think that was optimal. I like my friends and they like me and I'd like to be able to talk to them about this sort of thing more easily.
I can't even explain this behavior except that I feel that there's never a right time to bring up really bad news and I'm carrying a fair amount of stress about it already and I'm not at my best. I feel like I'm dropping a bomb into a conversation, making people uncomfortable, making me uncomfortable (because often I don't want to talk about it, I just want to inform people and go back to my own thoughts on the subject and that seems rude if they have questions) and I definitely don't want sympathy or someone asking "How's your Mom?" every day [where the answer is "Still don't know, but thanks for bringing it up again, it makes me feel bad every single time!" or "You don't even know her." and that's just not appropriate]. Many of my friends are wonderful graceful people with this sort of thing, so it's not even about worrying about their reactions, it's my own weird very personal grief and anxiety process that I'd like to work on.
I feel that once I've told people that they become part of the whole "wait and see what happens" process and even though I know that's how illnesses and medical situations work out, I hate the whole process so much that I don't want anyone else to suffer through it with me. I don't want to "keep people in the loop" when I have a hard enough time being in the loop myself. That said, I need to get better at this and would appreciate advice, either general or specific, about how to both broach these difficult subjects seemingly out of the blue, and also try to politely indicate that while I appreciate people's concern I really prefer to deal with this sort of thing on my own without seeming ruder than I already feel.
So, if you've dealt with this sort of thing personally in a way that worked for you, or if you could recommend things to read or websites to look at to help me get better at this, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.