How to respond when someone tells you bad news - TXG

Article By TXG   |   9th September 2019

I was recently diagnosed with cancer and while I am determined to make a complete recovery, this has been a year of fear, frustration and learning. One of my missions at the end of this treatment is that I will have really learned something about myself, who I want to be in the world and to hopefully share that learning in case it helps anyone else.

I will be sharing these learning occasionally and I hope that you will overlook the cancer piece but perhaps think about whether there is anything in the learnings that might resonate in your life.

The first is how to respond when someone tells you bad news.

We’ve all been there and it is awful. We may have heard that someone close to us has lost their partner, been diagnosed with an illness, been made redundant or perhaps their marriage has broken down.

As someone who has recently gone through the second of those, I have learned the importance of people reaching out. It is difficult to know what to say, I understand that.

You may not feel you have the right language or don’t want to put your foot in it but I have to say that the last six months of diagnosis and treatment, no-one has got their message wrong. The messages have come with a positive intent and so whether that is just a heart on a text or a message of ‘get well soon’ or ‘can I do anything?, they have all meant a huge amount. The thing I have struggled with most is the people I considered close who have heard the news either from me or from others around me and have gone silent. Completely silent.

I have found that the hardest to deal with and in talking to others, they have found the same so if I can make a request, if you hear that someone you know is going through something tough – reach out. It truly makes all the difference to know you have people cheering you on – even if you can’t respond in the moment.