February 13, 2020
How to Disclose a Difficult Diagnosis to Your Loved Ones
Having a serious illness like cancer, heart disease, or ALS can be very lonely, and no one should try to bear it alone. First, it isn’t practical to hide something that serious from friends and family without them noticing that something is troubling you. Second, acting like everything is okay when it’s not, requires energy you need for treatment and recovery.
However, sharing a difficult diagnosis with
loved ones makes it more real, which can be a huge challenge when still coming
to terms with the diagnosis yourself.
Get the Right
Misdiagnosis happens, so make sure you get a
second opinion. Until then, keep the news within your inner circle. You might
consider sparing the kids until you get confirmation.
Tell Your Nearest and
Once you have the right diagnosis, talk to your
closest family members and friends. Leave your neighbors, childhood friends,
and coworkers out of it for now.
It’s best to do it in person, if possible. If
you’re not feeling up to the task, ask your spouse, sibling, or any other close
family member to share the news on your behalf; follow up personally when
Ask them to keep the news confidential, at least
for now. You don’t want to be ‘outed’ in a heartfelt social media post before
you talk to the people outside your inner circle.
Tell the Kids
The desire to shield your kids from the news is
natural. However, the kids probably already know something is wrong. Decide how
much to tell them depending on their ages and emotional maturity.
Tell Friends and
Not everyone deserves to know about your
illness. You don’t need to and probably shouldn’t post about it on social
media. Proceed with caution and use your judgment.
If you’re not ready for the world to know about
your health condition, only tell friends and acquaintances who’ve proven their
ability to keep secrets in the past.
Tell Your Coworkers
There’s a reason why your coworkers should be
among the last people to learn about your diagnosis. Although you should be
protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act, unethical employers and
coworkers could find a way to make you regret sharing your health condition
First, do some research. Find out how similar situations were handled in the past, and talk to a lawyer if needed. Second, depending on company policy, talk to your boss or HR department; it’s not good for them to hear it from your coworkers. Lastly, talk to a few trusted coworkers who will support you on this journey.
Sharing a difficult diagnosis with your loved ones gives them the chance to support you in your treatment and recovery. Use the above guidelines to help decide when, who, and how to share your important health issues.