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Support Yourself and Others While Experiencing Grief During the Cancer Journey

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 08:00

close up woman hand holding paper broken heart in the park

New Brunswick, N.J., August 1, 2022 – Grief and loss are natural responses to change and fundamental parts of the human experience. Cancer patients, survivors and their support systems often experience grief and loss in different forms throughout the cancer experience. Gabrielle Alvarez, LCSW, OSW-C, social worker at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, is certified in grief counselling and shares some tips for both patients and caregivers to manage grief during the cancer journey.

Accept the big emotions. Going through cancer can be an emotional rollercoaster, for both the individual who has cancer and those closest to them. Some of these emotions might include shock and disbelief, fear and anxiety, anger, guilt, blame, sadness and loss of control. Remember that these are common responses, and big emotions are natural reactions to difficult situations. Recognizing their existence and accepting them is important to your emotional health.

Seek support when you need it. Grief can sometimes feel lonely, even with loved ones around. Start the conversation. Share how you are feeling. Seeking support from a trusted family member or friend or turning to others who have experienced similar losses can help. Look to cancer support groups in your area or search online to connect with those who truly understand what you are going through.

Be kind to yourself. It is important to care for yourself if you are grieving or taking care of others who are grieving. Being kind to yourself might look like:

  • Eating nutritious meals
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Expressing your grief through art, music or poetry
  • Deep breathing
  • Spending time in nature  
  • Taking a warm bath

Talk with a professional for more guidance. Do not hesitate to seek assistance with grief when dealing with cancer.

For additional information and resources, visit Additionally, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey offers a wide variety of support services for cancer patients and their families. Learn about our Patient Support Services program.

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Krista Didzbalis 
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