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Context

My Dad has been diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia for over a year. CML is liveable, but it may have progressed to the next stage - the accelerated phase. He is expecting to get the results back today, and if it's gotten to the next phase, he will tell my family and I.

Problem

In the past I have broken down in front of him when learning about his disease. I feel as though people may want to be there for me, instead I want to be there for my Dad.

Question

Assuming my Dad's CML has progressed, what could I do to try and there for my Dad to help him through a tough time, and not make people feel as though they need to be there for me during the initial telling of the results?

In essence I'm looking for tips to be there for my Dad if his result are not what we wanted. As soon as I've been told bad news, I sort of shut off and break down. This may still happen, but if he tells us what we're dreading, I'd like to have ideas on how to respond and be there for him, as this may help myself to stay calm.

Update

The tests were inconclusive this time, he's waiting for more update now. The good news is that no blast cells were found (which would mean lethal if found). So even though the news in this case was somewhat positive, due to the nature of his illness, bad news could always be presented for us, hence having ideas of what to say or do for my Dad if the time comes will be helpful.

  • 3
    Hi @Violet! If I understand well, you'd like to find ways to keep looking calm when you receive bad news? If yes, then maybe you would like to edit your question and narrow down a bit, since I'm afraid it might be off-topic right now. – avazula Apr 18 '18 at 10:05
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    @Violet - while I agree that is a very distressing incident, it isn't needed for the question, and in fact makes it very difficult to read your question. I think this will be closed unless you edit it to focus as avazula said. You could almost take it down to just the summary... – Rory Alsop Apr 18 '18 at 10:22
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    @Violet Your expectations were good, having a bit of background or context really helps to answer the question most of the time :) but some explanation could be cut off here, for the sake of clarification. Could you do that or you would appreciate if I attempt to edit your question? – avazula Apr 18 '18 at 10:23
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    Thank you both, I've given a go at editing my question according to your comments – Violet Flare Apr 18 '18 at 10:29
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because, as sad as it is, it's about an intrapersonal problem, not an interpersonal skill. Every person is different, and the way of dealing with such a bad news is something related to your inner strenght, not your outside skills. – OldPadawan Apr 18 '18 at 10:45
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Firstly, I'm so sorry that you are going through this. I can relate, my own mum was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and I could tell you every single detail about everything that happened that day, much as you have recalled the day you had the news (before your last edit).

It is difficult to answer your question because everybody deals with news like this differently, and how your dad deals with it himself will determine what words he may or may not find comforting.

Some people are angry when they receive a serious diagnosis (why is this happening to me?). Some may become depressed. But many people are fighters, and while they may have moments of despair they do tackle it head on. If there is some treatment or hope, they work with the docs and get on with the business of fighting it; or if there is no treatment they face up to the business of making preparations for their family to cope.

You know your dad better than we do. You may have an idea how he will deal with the news. You will already have seen how he has dealt with it this past year.

If there is some hope, then keep encouraging him through any low points. Positivity alone doesn't cure anything, but he'll need it to fight.

If it is bad news, my only direct advice is to avoid platitudes - sayings that have no meaning because we've heard them a thousand times before. If you do have limited time with him, he'll want to talk about something meaningful. So "act normally", but don't act normal, if you know what I mean. Be normal. And don't deliberately avoid the subject, unless he doesn't want to talk about it.

You said that you can break down in private, but don't hold back your emotion from your dad. Sure, he will want to see that you are being strong and believe that you can cope without him, but you don't want to hide your feelings from him in a way that looks like you are indifferent. Your dad may want a final opportunity to comfort you and tell you that you will be okay.

Finally regarding your issue with people wanting to be with you while you get the results - I don't really have any direct experience of that, but it sounds a bit X-Factor, people wanting to stand around holding hands while an envelope is opened waiting to cheer or cry. I don't think I would want that either. If somebody offers this to you, perhaps you could say:

Thank you, I may need your support afterwards, but for now I feel this should be about me supporting my dad.

All the best at this difficult time.

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    Thank you, your words are helpful, you've suggested how i could act after the fact, which I hadn't yet considered. When we've had the news broken to us in the past, you could see it was hard for him, but he managed to stay composed whilst telling us. I don't mean to hide my feelings about the situation from him completely, or never cry, just more try and find a way to stay strong for him during the initial telling of the results. I'm sorry to hear about your Mum, fingers crossed for the best of outcomes. – Violet Flare Apr 18 '18 at 10:51
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    @VioletFlare I realise that I haven't answered the second part of your question, I don't think that was there during the edit. I have a thought, I'll add it in. – Astralbee Apr 18 '18 at 12:08
  • The extra bit that you added is very helpful, thank you. – Violet Flare Apr 18 '18 at 13:13
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The last thing that your father needs when he gets bad news is a daughter who breaks down and needs to be comforted. The news will be awful for him. Having to focus on his daughter instead of himself will make the situation unbearable.

You want to be there for your father. If you are not 100 percent sure that you can handle any news, then the best way to be there for your father is to not be there, get the news, wait until you are Ok or at least Ok enough to put on a brave face, and then go to your father when you are capable of giving him strength instead of sucking it away.

If you want to be with your father when he gets the news: It's not about what you want. It's about what is best for your father. He needs to be strong, and the best way to get strength is to have strong people around him.

Obviously if you find advice how to stay calm, go for it. But it would be very difficult to change within one day, so I can only see using some medication as a solution. Which is far from perfect.

PS. KRyan, I've been there, and believe me, there is nothing worse in that situation than a relative breaking out in tears. Nothing whatsoever.

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    This answer is unnecessarily harsh, when the querent clearly already knows that breaking down is problematic and unfair, and doesn’t need to be scolded more for it. Furthermore, the suggestion of not being there is one that seems 1. unrealistic, and 2. a remedy worse than the problem. Having his daughter break down would be upsetting when he has to deal with this news himself, absolutely. Having his daughter avoid him entirely though, that just seems so much worse. – KRyan Apr 18 '18 at 18:42
  • I'm already aware that breaking down isn't going to help my Dad, though I don't think avoiding him is a solution - I'm sorry you've been through this yourself, last time I did try to hold back my tears, but he asked me if I was okay, and said he could tell that I'm not, that's when they started streaming down my face. I'm at a loss for what to say or do IF we're faced with bad news in the future. – Violet Flare Apr 23 '18 at 16:35

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