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Home  /  Integrative Cancer Care  /  Social  /  Profound Emotional Support for Cancer Patients and Caregivers

Profound Emotional Support for Cancer Patients and Caregivers

By Jeannine Walston

This information can help you learn about:

  • some profound architecture of what happens in cancer patients
  • important tips for family members and friends to give emotional support
  • how people with cancer can optimally experience supportive care

People living with cancer can experience intense emotions and feelings. Fear, sadness, anger, and other dynamics, with vulnerability, anxiety, and even depression, sometimes occur and with repetition. The feelings and emotions can be webbed and even created by major thoughts and beliefs regarding uncertainty, questions and even concerns about responsiveness to cancer treatments, life changes with family and friends, work, routines, worries about mortality, confusion about meaning and purpose, as well as ego constructs.

A distressful “self,” without applying effective strategies and skills, can create detachment into different parts of one’s identity. Dissociation can happen physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. The physical body with cancer cells, and parts of discomfort, can feel foreign and create a sense of alienation with self and those around them. The mind-body connection with unresolved, painful challenges can cultivate disconnect internally and externally. Without the capacity to identify, stay with, move into, and express the mental and emotional reactions, people with cancer can reject themselves and others. Any suppressed, stuck emotions can also become toxic to the physical body.

Ongoing perceived loneliness with a sense of isolation also supports detachment, dissociation, and disconnect. To kindly help people with cancer struggling with these issues, emotional kindness has the potential to aid in the process of self-integration. Even without these challenges, kindness supports others affected by cancer, including caregivers.

People with cancer need love from community. Emotional support creates connection. Kindness to people with cancer is medicine.

Here are 10 specific tips for families and friends to give emotional kindness to people with cancer.

  1. Ask compassionately “How are you feeling?” and be aware. Understand they talk about various parts of self. Their responses can involve body talk, body language, breathing, emotions, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, actions, aspects of the ego, spirit, spirituality, social dynamics, and other possibilities. Be present with everything they share. Also, depending upon the relationship, do not ask questions about their status with cancer and prognosis, which is inappropriate.
  2. Listen. Just listen. And really listen. Sometimes that is the best offering. Listening occurs through ears, eyes, heart, and full presence.
  3. Tell them what you are hearing if you have those skills. Remember that listening is extremely profound. People may also need to feel heard by verbal exchanges too. Recognize that time together, in the flesh and even by phone, is precious.
  4. Ask what they need and give it to them depending upon the capacity. If they do not and cannot know what they need, consider giving something anyway that can be appropriated and with the intention as helpful.
  5. Remember that you can do or be to support people affected by cancer. Doing includes actions (healthy foods, errands, cleaning, companionship to appointments, helping them deal with, manage, and even restructure whatever stresses them, providing assistance with health insurance programs). Being involves more tender, connective, and even quiet experiences together with other aspects of heart and soul (deeper conversations, deeper listening, deeper dialogue, touch).
  6. Find out what gives them joy, and if they would like you, or someone else, to join pleasurable activities.
  7. Use touch with how it is comfortable and appropriate. A brief touch on an arm, a hug, hand holding, and even massage can transmit support.
  8. Try to know the possibility that cancer patients can experience side effects from their disease, treatments, and/or medications, which can potentially impact challenges physically, mentally, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually, and socially. Sometimes it is hard for cancer patients to know all of the specifics of what they are experiencing and the causes. Extend sensitive gentleness.
  9. Depending on the dynamics, try to see if the person with cancer struggles to receive support. If they do not accept your help or think they do not need it, consider repeating that you are available to support them and emphasize how much you love them. Consider new types of support through other ways of giving.
  10. Respect their boundaries with compassion. Everyone is different, and every moment unique. Continue your love.

Along with receiving help through their journey, cancer patients really need to tenderly and profoundly give kindness to themselves for emotional support. Healing requires full internal whole person awareness and attention to mend the broken, blocked parts within. Kindness involves love, compassion, expression, patience, joy, and all forms of self-care. These fundamental, essential dimensions to health transmit self-love that heals the holes into the whole.

Explore more knowledge, insights, and resources, including Social Tips for Cancer PatientsEmotions and CancerSpirit, and Cancer Diagnosis Navigation.

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