Nobody ever predicts that a serious illness will be a part of their life. Whether you are dealing with the ramifications of an illness yourself or you are a family member or friend dealing with the illness of a loved one, it is unsettling on so many levels. Coping with a serious illness, whether acute or chronic, challenges our very foundations. It can, literally, “rock your world” and turn every thing upside down.

So now what? How do you cope? The doctor and medical technology have isolated the problem, but how do you deal with the emotional, physical, social, and spiritual shockwaves? Serious illness affects the very fabric of our being. It raises so many questions and dilemmas.

How do I deal with the pain or treatments?

How will I manage all this new information? this new schedule? all these new people in my life? this new way of relating to others? of relating to myself?

I’m so full of emotion. I am not myself. I don’t know what to do with all these emotions I am feeling.

My family and friends seem so upset and affected. How do I handle all this?

I already have a full life. How do I manage this too?

I can’t imagine living with this.

Why did this happen to me? Is this my fault? Did I deserve this?

The helplessness and hopelessness that is felt when dealing with a serious illness can be profound and lonely. Whether you are the one with the illness or caring for the person with the illness, the illness can change your life, your views of yourself and your views of the world.

There is hope. There are pathways to relief. Although the illness cannot be changed, you can re-master the other areas of your life and regain your balance.

A counseling relationship with someone who understands serious illness and its ramifications can help you find your balance again.

Therapy helps you with the everyday practical issues of navigating the healthcare maze. It offers you new models for dealing with your social context, your relationships, and your lifestyle management.

Therapy helps you with the deeply personal issues of putting the illness in context, redefining your self concepts, beliefs and regaining purpose and meaning. It can help you find “your version” of acceptance. It can help you come to a peace.

You do not have to be defeated. You do not have to be chronically overwhelmed or give up.

Whatever side of the fence you are on, patient or caregiver, call for a safe place to talk and get support. Some things are better discussed with a neutral other where you can talk about the depth of your feelings and not be concerned that you are burdening or overshadowing the feelings of the people you love.

Jackie Bay