Dear Carolyn: I've recently gotten a bad diagnosis. My doctors and husband are taking great care of me, but I have not shared this news with my adult children or my elderly mom. It grieves me that I am going to cause emotional upheaval. The fear they will feel is the main thing I wish I could avoid. What do I say to my loved ones? I think I'll be okay in the long run; I'm going to do everything I can to get well.
— Sharing Bad News
Sharing Bad News: I’m sorry about your news.
You know your family’s emotional wiring and I don’t, but going just on what I’ve experienced, I think the best approach is just to say what you know: You were diagnosed with X, your doctors and husband are being great, you’re going to do everything you can to get well, you think you’ll be okay in the long run.
Sure, it’ll be scary for the people who love you. It is not possible, though, to have a lifetime of complete insulation from fear and pain. So, allow them the next best thing: a chance to be involved, and to make any changes to their lives that they feel are warranted in light of this development. Let them all be in this with you together.
I feel that needs a footnote, since not everyone turns out to be strong enough to handle the “together” part; sometimes the response to bad news is to run from it. In that case, my advice is forgiveness: “Okay, this person can’t face it — but my job is still to do what I can to get well, so I will carry on with that and let the person know the door is open if and when s/he is ready.”
Sharing with no expectations is not a burden, it’s a gift.
Dear Carolyn: I just recently found out I'm pregnant again. My first child will be about 20 months old when this child hopefully arrives, so we had a baby shower not that long ago. My mother thinks it would be nice to have a baby shower to celebrate this baby and all babies deserve a celebration, but the idea just makes me uncomfortable. It's considered tacky, right? Are there non-tacky alternatives?
Tacky?: Why not just say no thanks? If your mom isn’t forcing the issue, then there’s no need to tie yourself up in knots . . . and if she is forcing it, then that’s all the more reason to hold the line.
Sometimes people just want to be included, sure, but they will probably see any celebration as a shower and bring gifts, whether you call it a shower or not. You could make it a bring-your-favorite-children’s-book shower, which would cost your guests very little, stir up some of their happy memories, build a library for both of your children and maybe even help stock a library or school or homeless shelter through donations (ask around — such institutions either need books or they really, really don’t).
There will always be those who judge; just do what feels right. Congratulations!