Handling bad news

I’ve never been great at responding to bad news. As a child I would unconsciously talk myself into things as a result of any bad news.

As the adult I try to cope with bad news, positively. I know that attitude and focus may help pave the way for positive thinking in dire circumstances. Being positive is an important response for bad news, but it’s not something that happens spontaneously. We have to work at it.

No one gets to change bad news or the outcome, but it helps the healing process if we are able to react positively to it. Being pro-active allows us to take bad news in our stride, but it must be honed. It’s not easy, but it’s easier if we learn to deal with it in childhood.

The first time I had to cope with bad news was when my grandmother passed, in my earlier twenties. My spiritual beliefs helped me handle bad news, but then it was easier, there was less going on in the world. Less for us to concern ourselves about.

But bad news is a response as much as good news is. It’s a part of life that is necessary, in some cases even more. We learn more about ourselves and life when we have to deal with bad news. It’s not something I did as a child, but now I ask myself questions so that I can work through handling bad news and the theory works.

Questions like what may have caused the bad news to happen? How could something like that be avoided next time? Did the problem happen because of a health issue that hadn’t been addressed? Asking questions help with the bigger picture and can often make hearing bad news less scary.

There is a reason behind why bad news becomes bad news. We need to understand why. Once you have your understanding that becomes part of the healing process.

24 Aug, 2013

8 thoughts on “Handling bad news

  1. I grew up getting used to hearing bad news, but definitely never really learning how to handle it like most people do!

    We always had to push it to the side without having much of a chance to process it most of the time. I know the proper term is disassociation which is never a good thing after having done it for such a long period of time.

    I was a very sensitive child as far as picking up on other people’s feelings. The biggest problem with that was that I never had a chance to learn the difference between what I was feeling and everyone else.

    Only now have I come to understand it’s OK to have my own feelings and I can process them without having to just bury them like I used to!

    1. Yes I think it would have been for your parents to help you, particularly if you were already getting used to hearing bad news! Some parents are just never equipped. If that is the case we just have to learn things for ourselves and be okay with it.

      I have had to learn things for myself. I believe we grow a lot quicker that way.

      Glad you’re working things through for yourself.

  2. I usually get mad or frustrated and I ask why a lot. I think as a nurse I handle things differently because I know why things happen that are medically related, but in the case of suicide I have to get angry and ask why; or a sudden death due to a car accident. It seems like I can handle medical related things but the other stuff gets to me.

    I wasn’t shielded as a child from death. The first time I remember someone in my family dying, was my great grandmother. My family took my sister and I to the funeral home and lifted us up to see grandma in her casket.

    I encouraged my daughter to touch her father and give him a kiss at his funeral. I think it was important to her to be able to do that.

    He died from an apparent suicide and I think it got to me more than my daughter. With suicide there is always the question ‘Why?’

    1. Thanks Lisa. Any passing is difficult, but suicide is more difficult because we won’t always understand why… as you’ve said suffice to say that the person taking his or her own life will have taken their own life because they weren’t coping with it.

      We don’t always have time to say goodbye to someone who commits suicide and that can also be difficult. Nine times out of ten we won’t see the signs until we know it’s happened.

      I am not sure whether I had been given the choice as a child what choice I would have made, but it took me many years to understand how to accept receiving bad news. I think if my parents had sat me down and discussed things with me, things wouldn’t have seemed so daunting. Things seem more daunting when we have little understanding.

      It’s fine for children to go to funerals when they’re little as long as they’re up to it. I believe talking things through first needs to happen so that our children are comfortable with the idea of what we as parent’s are asking or expecting them to do.

  3. Bad news affects different people in different ways. Some dwell on stuff whereas others just dust themselves down, get up then fight on!

    That’s my view on getting bad news anyway.

    1. Welcome to the site Andy. I think you’re right, bad news does affect people differently. We’ll all perceived and deal with bad news differently.

      We must find what works for us and stick to the winning formula!

  4. I think my father’s death prepared me to deal with bad news to some degree. I know what it feels like to get a dagger through the heart.

    It is impossible to know how we would react to bad news, it depends on a multitude of circumstances and the people involved.

    I think people try to condition themselves for bad news to better deal with bad news when it happens.

    1. Thanks Tim. I agree. People will always condition themselves to receive bad news so that they can deal with bad news better when it comes, but are we ever totally prepared?

      There is no precedent set for how we receive bad news it’s what works for us individually. If we’re closer to someone we’re more likely to take bad news of that person worse, than if we weren’t close at all so yes I would say it does depend on circumstances.

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