Chapter 1: Exploring feelings while living with a serious diagnosis


I am so sad – and mad.

Living with a life-limiting illness brings many potential sources of anger not only for the patient, but also for caregivers and the family. The source of the anger may not be obvious, not even to the person who is angry. For example, you might feel a sense of injustice, especially if the person has been living a relatively healthy lifestyle. You might be angry at the person if you feel they caused the illness. The person who is ill may even be angry at you if they feel you somehow contributed to the disease.

Exploring angry feelings

There are many additional and varied reasons both the person who received the diagnosis and the caregivers and family may feel anger and other associated strong feelings. Click the switch button below to explore what some of these might be.

Friends and familyThe person who received the diagnosis

Needing to blame someone for what is happening.

An overwhelming sense of helplessness or guilt for not being able to provide the care you would like.

Afraid of increasing demands on you and an unknown future.

Frustrated with the way the ill person lived.

Frustrated by long-standing conflict in the relationship.

The timing of the illness.

Let down by healthcare providers or the healthcare system.

Abandoned by a higher power.

Frustrated by an increased dependency on others.

Related losses such as the loss of work and the ability to provide.

All of the above emotions may come out as anger; however, the anger you feel may be a secondary emotion. In other words, you may be fearful but express your fear as anger. You may think that “The best defence is a good offence.”

As with all emotions, it is important to express your anger. Ideally, it would be most beneficial for you to find someone who can listen and accept you where you are as opposed to trying to “fix” you.

What may help

If you (or the person who is ill) are having difficulties expressing anger or other emotions, consider contacting a healthcare provider or spiritual care provider. They are trained to help you work on your own process to find a way to deal with what has been thrown at you.

In the case of difficult relationships, there may be an opportunity to talk about the difficulties before the disease progresses further. You may want to call on professional help, but it’s equally important to be realistic about expectations.