Mesothelioma Grief Counseling

Grief counseling helps mesothelioma patients manage the range of emotions that come after diagnosis and during treatments. Family members and close friends can also benefit from counseling as they can learn how to process their own grief and become more effective caregivers. Learn the benefits of mesothelioma grief counseling and how to access it.

What Is Mesothelioma Grief Counseling?

Through mesothelioma grief counseling, mental health professionals help patients with mesothelioma understand and work through their feelings as they battle cancer. Mesothelioma grief counselors are trained social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists who can help you no matter where you live.

Cancer takes a heavy toll on patients and families alike, but counseling can help you express your problems and process feelings of grief after diagnosis, during mesothelioma treatment, and beyond.

“Living with cancer is a huge challenge for everyone. Even a few counseling sessions will likely help you.”

– The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Grieving Process for Mesothelioma Patients

After you or someone you love is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s normal to experience a wide range of feelings. A common emotion that accompanies a cancer diagnosis is grief, which is typically experienced in various stages.

The five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial: Usually the first stage, denial can go hand-in-hand with shock. This may come right after a mesothelioma diagnosis or even if someone you love passes away.
  2. Anger: You may feel anger because mesothelioma has no cure and since its treatments can be very taxing on the body.
  3. Bargaining: In this stage, you may dwell on the “what ifs” and try to make sense of why you got a terminal illness like cancer.
  4. Depression: This stage may set in when you begin to accept your mesothelioma diagnosis. Crying, sleep disturbances, and decreased appetite can all accompany depression.
  5. Acceptance: In this stage, you have processed your grief and become better equipped to face life with mesothelioma.

While these stages are common, they may not be linear or predictable. It is likely that you will move in and out of the stages or skip stages entirely.

Regardless, grief counseling can help you move through each of the stages in a more comfortable and stable way.

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How Can I Access Mesothelioma Grief Counseling?

Depending on your personal situation and preferences, you may rely on one or more of the mesothelioma grief counseling options below.

Oncology Social Workers

After diagnosis, your mesothelioma doctors may refer you to an oncology social worker. Social workers can provide mental health counseling, help with day-to-day concerns like accessing financial aid, and connect you with other useful resources in your area.

Psychiatrists and Psychologists

In some cases, your social worker may refer you to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. These professionals focus exclusively on diagnosing and treating mental health problems. Additionally, psychiatrists can prescribe psychiatric medications in certain cases.

Talk to your doctor or social worker to learn more about the benefits of working with a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Mesothelioma Grief Support Groups

Support groups allow you to connect with other mesothelioma patients who can help you feel less alone in your cancer fight and empathize with your struggles.

There are online, in-person, and over-the-phone support groups available for mesothelioma patients and caregivers. Learn more about these groups and other forms of mesothelioma support.

Pastoral Services

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, you may wonder why you got cancer. In these cases, pastoral services can help you sort through your emotions and spiritual questions.

It is common for clergy members to have training so they can help people with cancer. If you’re interested, reach out to your place of worship to see what services are available.

Mesothelioma Grief Counseling for Family and Friends

A mesothelioma diagnosis is not only life-changing for patients but also for those closest to them. Because of this, grief counseling is equally important for family members, loved ones, and mesothelioma caregivers.

Grief While Caring for a Mesothelioma Patient

If you are the caregiver of someone with mesothelioma, you may need to make life adjustments to care for them. Speaking with a counselor can help you manage the emotions that come with these changes.

“I think I was more frustrated and angry than my husband was. When they said to me that there was no cure for [mesothelioma], my life flashed before me.”

– LaTanya, Wife of Mesothelioma Patient

Staying on top of your own mental health can help you process grief and be a better caregiver for your loved one.

Tips for Mesothelioma Caregivers

Tips for navigating life as a caregiver include: educating yourself on the patient’s condition, creating new memories with your loved one, and asking trusted family members and friends for help.

Grieving With Children

Children may grieve the death of a loved one differently than adults do, according to ASCO. For example, their grief may come in short bursts or waves as they age.

Some ways to help a child through grief include:

  • Allowing them to express their emotions
  • Explaining that the death was not their fault
  • Keeping an open line of communication
  • Sharing information about the loved one’s life with the child

If your child has difficulty processing grief, it may be helpful for them to see a psychologist or counselor.

Grief in Losing a Loved One

When someone you love passes away from mesothelioma, remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Every loss is different, and no two people experience grief in the same way.

You can also seek help from a counselor if your symptoms of grief are long-lasting or if you think you may be suffering from depression.

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Mesothelioma Grief FAQs

The grieving process can be confusing and complex. Learn more about grief with the questions and answers listed below.

How can I connect to grief counselors?

  • American Psychosocial Oncology Society hotline: Call (866) 276-744 toll-free to find a grief counselor near you.
  • CancerCare hotline: Speak with a social worker by calling (800) 813-4673. Free in-person counseling is available for New York and New Jersey residents.
  • Cancer Support Helpline: This resource allows you to get professional medical advice from social workers and access other grief resources in your area. Call +1 (888) 793-9355 to access.

You can also connect to a counselor by speaking to your doctor or another member of your mesothelioma care team.

Is grief the same thing as depression?

No. While grief includes waves of uncomfortable feelings, it also includes positive memories. On the other hand, depression is a serious mental condition that negatively and persistently affects daily life.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Inability to perform normal tasks or make decisions
  • No longer enjoying hobbies
  • Persistent sadness
  • Poor concentration
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Thoughts of suicide and death

If you are experiencing mild grief or major depression in the midst of a cancer diagnosis, counseling can help provide support and coping tools.

How long do the 5 stages of grief last?

There is no set period for how long you may experience grief, but gradually, you will start to heal. Be patient with yourself if you are grieving, and don’t try to hold back your feelings.

“Since each person grieves differently, the length and intensity of the emotions people go through varies from person to person.”

– The American Cancer Society (ACS)

How can I support those coping with loss?

You can offer support after someone loses a loved one to mesothelioma by listening to their needs and expressing your condolences. Don’t try to offer advice — just let the other person know that you care.

Find Support for Coping With a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can access emotional support from your family, friends, and counselors. There is no shame in reaching out to others for assistance during your cancer fight. The same is true if you are the loved one of someone battling cancer.

Mesothelioma organizations also offer resources to help you navigate grief:

  • Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
  • Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
  • American Cancer Society
  • The National Cancer Institute
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology

If you’re unsure where to start, our patient advocates can tell you more. Download our free mesothelioma guide today.

Reviewed by:AnnMarie Rotan, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

AnnMarie Rotan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with over two decades of experience in the health care field — which includes hospital, outpatient clinical, home health, and mental health services. She also brings experience from the classroom as a professor, educating students in social work. Currently, she is an independent contractor for a home health agency, hospital, and teletherapy provider.

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. We help give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma.

12 references
  1. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Symptoms of major depression and complicated grief. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  2. American Psychological Association. (2017, July). What Is the Difference Between Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Social Workers? Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  3. American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2020, June 25). Helping Grieving Children and Teenagers. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  4. American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2020, May 07). Counseling. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  5. American Society of Clinical Oncology. (n.d.). Symptoms of major depression and complicated grief. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  6. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Grief and Bereavement. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from
  7. American Cancer Society. “Coping with the Loss of a Loved One.” Retrieved from Accessed on January 23, 2020.
  8. American Cancer Society. “Children and Cancer.” Retrieved from Accessed on January 23, 2020.
  9. American Psychiatric Association. “Major Depressive Disorder and the ‘Bereavement Exclusion’.” Accessed on January 23, 2020.
  10. Psychology Today. (August 7, 2017). “30 Reasons Why You May Need a Grief Therapist.” Accessed on January 23, 2020.
  11. UPMC Health Beat. (October 5, 2016). “Grief and Cancer: Ways to Cope with Loss.” Accessed on January 23, 2020.
  12. WebMD. “Feeling Grief and Loss While You’re a Caregiver.” Retrieved from Accessed on January 23, 2020.

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