How to Disclose a Difficult Diagnosis to Your Loved Ones
February 13, 2020
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 Diagnosis
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 Dearest First
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 ready.
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 Acquaintances
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 with them.
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.