How do you handle devastating news?
A friend of mine was re-admitted to a local hospital yesterday afternoon with the possible diagnosis of pneumonia. Following a lung scan, they informed her that she had nodules on her lungs and that further testing would follow. This morning the lung specialist and his assistant told her that they believe, by their appearance, that the nodules are cancerous.
About 16 years ago, she lost a breast to cancer, so always in the back of her mind was this fear of its return. Approximately a month ago, she was admitted to the hospital due to blood clots in the arm. Upon her release, she was diagnosed with lymphedema, which is a lymphatic blockage of the lymph nodes. This is a painful disorder that also causes swelling of the affected limb. Her treatments for that began this week while simultaneously her breathing became more distressed.
When she was admitted yesterday her main fear was that the blood clots were back despite being on blood thinners. This morning’s news sent new fear through her.
It is easy to sit back and tell someone not to worry, that God is in control. It is something entirely different to face this kind of news personally. Yes, as Christians we know God is in control. However, as humans our first responses are shock, disbelief, terror, panic, and grief. The stages of grief begin.
Jesus promised us peace and Paul wrote that by His stripes we are healed. I firmly believe this. I know my friend does as well. Yet, during the first hours of receiving such news to know this consciously is far more difficult.
How do you help a friend is facing a possible death sentence? What you do not do is tell them that it is God’s will. On certain theological and philosophical levels, this is correct. All things happen for a purpose. This does not help the person involved, however. Not yet at least. So what do you do? You hold them, you cry with them, you pray with them, and you empathize with them. You stand by them and remind them that they are not alone. The most important thing listening. Do not discard their fears and worries. Allow them to feel them as well as the plethora of emotions that will strike them.
Only the future will reveal what awaits my friend. For now, I will focus on being there for her regardless of the prognosis.