Cancer Grief + Loss: 5 Tips to Handle and Overcome Loss After Cancer

Posted: February 28, 2022


Mental Health






Buckle up. This shit is heavy. 

We know cancer brings loss of hair, relationships, our sculpted bodies, and sometimes life. When we experience loss, we mourn what is no more or won’t be—but grieving during and after cancer is a journey unique to every person. How do you deal?

Grief after cancer diagnosis could be for life as you knew it, plans for the future, or mourning loved ones. Some losses are tangible, like losing our hair, while others are more intangible, such as losing trust in our relationships or bodies. 

You can try therapy, coping mechanisms, journaling, or exercise. But in reality, there’s no one-stop-shop to help with grief and loss. Everyone’s experience is different.

(Photo from @dr.christina_)

Grief is an ocean at high tide, not a river. 

Grief hits in waves, often ebbing and flowing with varying levels of intensity. It doesn’t follow a cutout path, nor does it obey dams and bridges. It summons from the depths, churning and refining.

There are five stages of grief that you’ll likely experience to some capacity:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

You've probably heard these stages before or even had your medical team review this process upon diagnosis. Grief isn’t a perfect sequence. You'll likely have a mix of these feelings on and off and in no particular order. Working towards acceptance is the goal, but it takes time. And everyone is different.

"Grief is a ghost that visits without warning. It comes in the night and rips you from your sleep. It fills your chest with shards of glass. It interrupts you mid-laugh when you’re at a party, chastising you that, just for a moment, you’ve forgotten. It haunts you until it becomes a part of you, shadowing you breath for breath." — Terrible, Thanks For Asking Podcast

Here are five tips for dealing with loss after cancer, because we know the grieving process feels helpless sometimes, bud.

1. Don’t dismiss your feelings. 

Our culture values the appearance of “being fine.” But we’re not fine, especially when dealing with cancer losses. Don’t let that impact how you listen to yourself.

“In a society which is much more inclined to help you hide your pain rather than to grow through it, it’s necessary to make a very conscious effort to mourn.” -Henri Nouwen

To “make an effort to mourn” requires intention. Actions like journaling your feelings can help. It doesn’t have to be award-winning poetry. It can be as simple as:

  • “Feeling sad today.”
  • “Having FOMO about a race that I can’t compete in this year.”
  • “Missing Sabrina while making spaghetti.”

Your Dear Diary won’t judge (and neither will we, bud). 

2. Seek support from your loved ones and those who can relate (like your buddhi community).

We’re not meant to endure hardships alone. Your caregivers, counselors, medical team, and friends are all on your side. Let them know when you’re having a hard time and what those feelings are. But sometimes, there might be tension with friends and family

It’s hard to be honest and open about the real, sucky cancer shit with people who don’t understand. That’s where a community like buddhi can connect you with cancer thrivers and survivors who are in the trenches with you. They know what it’s like to be ghosted by a bestie or suffer from “chemo brain.” We’re just a click on a discussion board away (or use our social tool (coming soon!) to drop a GIPHY on what you’re feeling).

3. Practice self-care.

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