Looking after or supporting a family can be hard work even when you are well. Trying to juggle the roles of mother, father, daughter, son or breadwinner at the same time as coping with a serious illness and all the emotions it can cause may seem impossible. It can feel difficult to support other people when you may be feeling in need of more support yourself.
It’s important to be realistic about what you can manage, and to get help from your partner, family or friends before things become too much for you to cope with. You might need to give up some or all of your responsibilities for a short time, so you can concentrate on coping with your illness and its effects.
If you have very strong emotions, or anxiety, you may need to take time off from work until you feel better. You may also need to take time off work if you’re caring for a relative who is seriously ill.
As a parent, you may not be able to do all the things you usually do for your children. This doesn’t mean you have failed in any way, but just that you need to plan your time and save your energy for the most important tasks.
Remember that you’re probably not alone in your feelings. Your partner and other family members may have concerns and worries too. You may be hiding what you really feel so as not to upset other people. Getting your concerns out in the open, and understanding that others feel the same, can be very reassuring and helpful. Talking things through may be all that you need. For anyone involved it may also be helpful to talk to someone outside the family, such as a good friend or a trained counsellor.
It is not always easy to talk to children about a serious illness or your emotions. However, it’s often best to be as open with them as you can, giving information appropriate to their age. Our section on talking to children may help.