Iris Mini: Social Support - Dealing with Disappointment from Others

After a cancer diagnosis, there is often a need to turn to others for support. Support can take many forms. Perhaps you would benefit from practical aid, such as assistance with transportation to medical appointments or help taking care of your child while you go to a medical appointment. For others, support can be more emotional or spiritual in nature.

As you sort out your support needs, you may discover that you are surprised by the people who support you in unexpected and impactful ways. It is disappointing to learn that some people can’t be as supportive as you had hoped or expected. When our expectations of others are not met in the way we envision, it requires some internal adjustment.

Here are some strategies to consider for coping with disappointments:

  • Acknowledge and allow the range of emotions you may be experiencing

  • Consider whether to respectfully share your feelings with the other person

The other person may not know how you are feeling and sharing it could increase understanding and support. You may also choose not to share your feelings to conserve your emotional energy. Another reason may be that you don’t believe sharing would help increase understanding or change the other person's behavior.

Consider these factors when navigating your social support:

  • Take a step back and recognize that cancer may be a new and challenging experience for those who care about you. Keep in mind that others may not know what to say or do (or not to say or do) and may not know what you need. It can also be difficult to acknowledge what you need and to take the initiative to ask for support. For more information about asking for support, see Iris Mini: Asking for What You Need.

  • Aim for realistic expectations of those around you. Each person has different strengths and comfort levels with regards to providing support. Consider the strengths of each person in your support system and choose the best person for the type of support needed (practical, emotional, or distraction). For more strategies about activating different types of support, see Iris Mini: Social Support Strategies.

  • Disappointment is a common experience for people facing cancer. Sometimes it can be helpful to connect with others who are going through a similar experience. Explore if a support group is right for you: Iris Mini Support Groups.

Cultivate a Sense of Gratitude

As you continue to navigate your diagnosis, it can be helpful to nurture a sense of gratitude for the support and acts of kindness you have received. You may want to reflect on the following:

  • Are there people in your community who have provided support in a way that you would not have expected of them?

  • Are there certain relationships that have strengthened since your diagnosis?

  • What has cancer taught you about the importance of human relationships?

  • How can you approach your relationships with more intention and meaning?

Additional Support

Keep in mind that there is support available to help you navigate the various emotions of your cancer experience. Consider making an appointment with an Iris mental health therapist.