Leukaemia Foundation

Leukaemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma & Related Blood Disorders.

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Relationships

It is important to remember that everyone copes with stressful situations differently, especially where grief or fear are involved. Some may want 'time out' and personal space to sort through their feelings. Others will need to talk and discuss their feelings openly. It is important for your family to talk about what each person needs in the situation and to acknowledge that these needs can change over time. If necessary you should seek help in dealing with the difficult issues you are facing.

Serious illness within a family can be very challenging for partner relationships. As well as dealing with the threat of losing a loved one, treatments make many demands on partners' time and emotional resources. Unfortunately relationships sometimes break down under the strain, especially if serious problems existed in the relationship prior to the diagnosis. Many people however report that they become closer, that they experience a strengthening of their relationship through facing this difficult time together. A changed attitude to life, which involves a heightened appreciation of everyday family life and close relationships, is also common.

During treatment most people are too busy to focus on their relationship. So, often problems do not arise until the end of treatment. Therefore it is important to be aware that treatment closure can be a very sensitive time when there is a need to deal with issues within your relationship. Many people benefit from receiving the support from someone outside the family who can help them deal with the issues which the illness has raised within their relationship and their family. The Leukaemia Foundation staff are available to support and understand your concerns and, if necessary, to refer you to other support or counselling services.

Helpful suggestions

• Effective communication is essential. Having some understanding about how you as individuals cope differently with this kind of stress can be helpful. Acknowledging and talking about the stress in the situation can also help. If you are having problems in your relationship, a counsellor may be of assistance to you both.

• Maintaining a sense of humour and perspective on life and the things that really matter is useful.

• Many treatment centres have a counsellor, psychologist, social worker and pastoral care workers who can assist you and your family in coping better with thepractical and emotional difficulties you may be experiencing. They can also identify strategies that will help you and your family cope during and after treatment.

• The support staff at the Leukaemia Foundation are there to provide you with support and understanding. If necessary they can help to organise counselling for you and your partner.