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Coping With Cancer

How Do I Handle This Cancer Part 7

*December 2020* by Tess Taft, msw, licsw ©all rights reserved

This is the seventh part of a series on how people cope with cancer. The first installment discussed GRIEF, DEPRESSION, and ANXIETY. The second installment included thoughts on ANGER.The third installment spoke to people who manage their feelings by WITHDRAWAL and RESIGNATION. The fourth part addressed how people handle cancer by DENIAL and SEEKING INFORMATION. The fifth part discussed coping with DISTRACTION and RIGID CONTROL. The sixth part looked at four ways for SEEKING SPIRITUAL ANSWERS, ACCEPTANCE, AND PEACE. Now  we’ll look at additional ways of SEEKING SPIRITUAL ANSWERS as a way to cope with cancer.

Remember: The ways we handle cancer define how we are trying to survive emotionally. People within the same family (or family of friends) often handle cancer in very different ways. Also, people learn to handle cancer in new and more ways over time, as they learn how to live in spite of the stress and grief in themselves or their loved ones. The ways people handle the predictable crisis points in cancer also shift and change as people learn to trust themselves and receive support during this new and demanding time of trouble. The predictable crisis points include: diagnosis, beginning treatment, midway through treatment, ending treatment, recurrence, terminal diagnosis, and dying. Families that support each other well have learned to accept the different styles within their group of loved ones, holding them all in balance, even validating their different coping styles in front of each other. Each way people cope deserves compassion and understanding. When it comes to cancer, past losses of loved ones who died of cancer can determine how devastating a cancer diagnosis can feel, even if the current prognosis is excellent. It is easy to forget the vast advances that have occurred in cancer treatment over the last few years and decades.

Let’s continue exploring spirituality. When I ask people “Will you tell me about your spirituality?”, I get a wide range of answers, from “God guides my every breath, my every step, He is my Light” to “I have no interest in that at all”. I find most people are floating somewhere in between those answers, wondering. I call them Seekers. The first four qualities of spiritual Seekers are discussed in last month’s article. So we begin here with #5.

5, They don’t harbor regrets and self recrimination. They have learned to accept  that we all make mistakes, to apologize sincerely for mistakes they have made, then release  themselves from suffering. They know how to be kind to themselves

    • Are there things you regret having said or done that cause suffering to linger in your mind and heart?


    • Have you attempted to resolve your regrets with the person or people affected in a way that does not add to the hurt?


  • How do you cope with the feelings left behind if an unresolved regret is beyond personal resolution? For example, if the person has died or you don’t remember their name, how do you let go of the regret? How do you forgive yourself?

6. They have learned to offer and receive forgiveness with an open heart. <

    • Forgiveness can begin with learning to forgive ourselves. We can also allow ourselves to forgive another.


  • Practicing the art of self-forgiveness will help you build a foundation of love for yourself, over time, that is unshakable. This powerful skill will help you become the kind of person who is more likely to respond to harshness with compassion and kindness rather than judgement toward yourself or the other person.

They have come to understand that nobody needs to be perfect, or to have completely healed all of their inner wounds, to be able to die in peace.

    • Having accomplished this triumph of the heart by forgiving yourself, you may feel ready to forgive another. The same process applies: close your eyes, soften and relax, and take yourself back to a scene where you were hurt, watch it play out. Notice how the other person feels, look at the emotion on their face after the harm was done to you. Can you see the pain there? Remember, under anger is fear. What could you or that person have been afraid of?


    • Can you see his or her point of view? Notice how you feel now. Do you feel differently than you felt at the time? Can you open your heart to her or him?


  • From your open heart, what do you need to say to yourself and to the other person? What do you think the other person needs to hear? Does this process help you move forward, toward healing from a stuck place within you? Can you release or diminish any lingering hurt or resentment? How do you feel now? Journaling your way through this process might work well, too.

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