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advice on sharing news of seriously ill parent

My dad was admitted to the hospital over the weekend for breathing and heart problems. He has early stage congestive heart failure and a heart murmur that has gotten significantly worse and will probably require surgery in the next week. His condition is very serious and I'm scared out of my mind, but I am not sure who to share the news with. My parents' close family all know, and my husband knows. I am very close with my husband's family but I haven't told them or my close friends. I feel weird going out of my way to share bad news. It's particular weird because today is my 30th birthday (and the second day I've spent in the hospital with my dad) so people are calling and emailing and facebooking to me to wish me a happy birthday. I just don't feel like celebrating, so I've been avoiding most of the contact. I don't want people to think I'm being rude or ungrateful, but I don't know what to say to explain myself without dropping horrible news on people. It also feels like lying if I just act like everything's normal and don't tell people who I do talk to. Any thoughts or advice?

Re: advice on sharing news of seriously ill parent

  • Very sorry to hear about your dad:( I don't think you have to go out of your way to tell anyone, it can be exhausting. My MIL has terminal cancer and we had a recent scare with my dad. I sent emails to my friends and by friends, I mean close ones that I just may not talk to every week. It found that was a better way to communicate because you can reach multiple people at the same time and it's less draining than talking.

    I'm a social worker in transplant (heart) and also work with end stage heart failure patients. I know it's scary, but I am glad that surgery is an option for your dad, that means there is a LOT of hope. If he does have surgery, he may feel like a new man after:) I know I don't know his exact situation, but I am hopeful for him and for you.

    Make sure you take care of yourself throughout this and don't feel pressure to talk to everyone.

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  • Sorry to hear about your father. I know what it's like to have a sick dad, and it's extremely emotional and draining.

    My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer about 3 years ago, and I learned that you don't have to go out of your way to tell people. He told us he didn't really want us telling everyone in the world news that he felt was his to share. Obviously he expected me to tell my husband and close friends, but he didn't want a post on facebook talking about it, or a mass email to people I don't talk to often. Does he have any problem with you telling people? I think once the shock wore off it just became a part of my life and it didn't feel as awkward to tell people. When it's fresh it is hard to talk about with anyone.

    I think if you want people to know, just tell them. If they truly care about you, they won't hold it against you for talking about something that is important to you. Just take it in stride, and don't feel you have to tell people if you aren't comfortable doing so right now.

    Sorry all of this is happening on your birthday, I know that's hard.  And as for feeling guilty for not acknowledging the birthday wishes, I wouldn't worry so much about that right now. Just take care of yourself and your dad.

  • I would suggest that you talk to your parents first before sharing any news. I haven't had any major health scares with my own parents, but I'm very close with my grandparents. My grandmother battled melanoma for several years and did not tell anyone except immediate family and her closest friends that it had become terminal. She was VERY upset when my aunt made mention of it coming back throughout her body on my aunt's blog. Even when she was on hospice, she didn't make a big point of telling everyone until they very end. 

    So, I don't think you should go out of your way to tell people and don't put anything on a public forum (facebook, etc) without their permission. 

    And my grandfather developed congestive heart failure randomly last May, along with kidney failure with dialysis. He did choose to share with more people and felt he needed the support. His heart is now almost fully recovered and they are actually taking him OFF dialysis, so you never know.  

    I'm sorry you are going through this and you are under no obligation to acknowledge all the birthday wishes. Heck, I almost never go on facebook, so I didn't see the hundred "happy birthday" messages until a week later, just because i'm lazy.  

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  • So sorry to hear about your dad.  When my mom was sick, I just started telling people.  I think when I told the first person, I just started telling others because I needed to get it out.  It just came pouring out.  Like  you I was scared, so the first person I talked to was someone who could relate and then I began telling my friends.  Honestly, I would talk to whomever you feel comfortable telling and just be honest with them.  Especially if you are avoiding people.

    It was nice having people knowing what I was going through so that they could support me.  Their support was nice when my mom died as well. She died very early morning and I called my closest friend to tell her.  My friends has set up a phone tree where they called each other at this point, which was so helpful to me because I didn't have to keep re-telling what had just happened.

    It may take a few days or even weeks until you feel like sharing the news with anyone, but that's okay.  Take your time and take care!

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