Chapter 1: Exploring feelings while living with a serious diagnosis


I am so sad – and mad.

Living with a life-limiting illness brings many potential sources of anger not only for the person who is ill, but also for friends and family. The source of the anger may not be obvious, even to the person who is angry. For example, you might feel a sense of injustice, especially if the person has been living a relatively healthy lifestyle.

Exploring angry feelings

There are many reasons both the person who is ill and their caregivers and family may feel anger and other related strong feelings. Click the switch below to explore some of these.

Friends and familyThe person who received the diagnosis

Needing to blame someone for what is happening

An overwhelming sense of helplessness or guilt for not being able to provide the care you would like

Afraid of increasing demands on you and an unknown future

Frustrated because you feel the person who is ill doesn’t take care of themselves the way you wish they would

Frustrated by long-standing conflict in the relationship

Frustrated with others for not helping or responding as you might expect

Shocked at the timing of the illness

Let down by healthcare providers or the healthcare system

Abandoned by a higher power

Frustrated by an increased dependency on others

Distressed by additional losses such as the loss of work and the ability to provide

Abandoned by people who aren’t responding the way the person expects them to

It is important to express anger, as long as the person is not hurting themselves or others. You might try to find someone who can listen without trying to fix or control the situation, like a trusted friend or family member, or a counsellor trained in grief and loss. 

What may help

If you (or the person who is ill) are having difficulties expressing anger or other emotions, consider reaching out to a healthcare provider. They are well positioned to support you, or they may refer you to a counsellor who can also provide support and resources.