Whether you are the patient or a family member or friend, a change in role affects how you perceive yourself as well as how others view you. This includes people you know and do not know, who you may think are judging you for the choices you make, and your ability to juggle new roles that may be foreign to you. It may also be a particularly frustrating time because you did not ask for and did not want this shift in circumstances or added responsibility in the first place. Here are some suggestions on how you can cope.
Come to Terms with Reality
A sudden change of role within the family can be difficult to negotiate. This is true whether you are a stay-at-home mom newly diagnosed with an illness now needing to receive care rather than give it, or a family member who finds him or herself overwhelmed by responsibilities that he/she have never had before such as caring for children, working outside the home, meeting financial obligations, and caring for the sick person.
Be Honest With Yourself & Communicate Your Needs
There are many ways to try to cope with sudden and unplanned changes in roles due to sickness. A good start is to be honest with yourself and to those around you about your needs and your boundaries. Keep the lines of communication open in your family/immediate support circle.
Remember that it is not just navigating sudden role change that is making things difficult for you, but also the life-threatening illness of yourself or a loved one. Most people do, over time, develop a level of comfort, acceptance, and in some cases a sense of pride about their new role(s). This takes a lot of time, and a lot of patience. It is important to believe that you can be the person that you need to be.
Accepting a "New Normal"
When medical treatment ends, people often expect things to get “back to normal”. The truth is that it is not so much about getting “back to normal”, as it is about finding out who you are now that you or a loved one has fought a life-threatening illness.
Your “new normal” may include significant changes in how you view life and the world around you. Your “new normal” may also include permanent changes to your role(s) within your family and your community. It is about how you integrate these new roles and the life experience that goes with it into your life.
Having a serious illness is an experience that permanently changes you, and the relationships you have with everyone around you. This is not necessarily negative. In fact, some people find it quite positive. Many survivors and family members come away from their treatment with a new affinity for life, reinventing themselves and rethinking their lives and their futures.