Why Cancer Grief Support Is Important
Support from family and friends can help people process their grief, connect with others, and not feel so alone.
Cancer grief support can help those who are grieving:
- Avoid feelings of isolation or loneliness
- Deal with difficult emotions
- Move through the stages of grief
Tip: One concrete way to support someone affected by cancer and grieving is to help them with daily tasks, like cooking, grocery shopping, or yard work.
The 5 Stages of Grief & Cancer
Those who have lost a loved one to cancer may grieve the absence of the person in their life. Cancer patients may grieve the loss of their health or changes to their bodies or daily routines.
While everyone processes grief in their own way, there are certain stages of grief that cancer patients and anyone dealing with loss go through.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first wrote about the five stages of grief in the 1960s, but her model is widely accepted by psychologists everywhere today.
The 5 stages of grief are:
- Denial: During this initial stage, the grieving person will have difficulty accepting or believing that a loss has happened.
- Anger: Next, they may feel anger or rage toward themself or others as they seek to blame someone for the loss.
- Bargaining: The person may try to bargain with a higher power to reverse the loss.
- Depression: It’s common to experience symptoms of depression, feelings of guilt or shame, or a loss of interest in life and daily activities.
- Acceptance: In this final stage, the person has started to accept the loss as their new reality and move on with their life, even though they still feel sadness.
Grief and Cancer Support by Type of Griever
Depending on whether you’re a cancer patient, family member, or caregiver, you may benefit from different support options.
Grief Support Resources for Cancer Patients
Cancer patients often need support as they deal with the shock of a diagnosis and navigate treatment.
General cancer grief resources for patients include:
- American Cancer Society: The ACS works to improve the lives of individuals with cancer and their families. Support resources include a 24/7 cancer helpline and first-person stories by cancer survivors.
- Cancer.net: This website from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has information on navigating cancer care and coping with a cancer diagnosis.
- Livestrong: With a mission of solving everyday cancer problems, this group offers information and programs for patients, caregivers, and survivors.
- This Is Living With Cancer: This online platform has information and resources for those living with cancer to inspire them to live better and beyond their diagnosis.
Patients may also find help and hope in support options focused on their specific type of cancer.
These resources include:
- American Lung Association: The ALA has a Lung Helpline that patients can call to talk to a lung cancer expert, as well as information on coping with your emotions after a diagnosis and finding support groups.
- Colorectal Cancer Alliance: This website gives patients access to information, tools, and communities they can use to navigate treatment and connect with others dealing with colon and rectal cancers.
- Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation: Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure, which can make dealing with the disease isolating. However, this group offers support groups and other resources for those battling grief and mesothelioma.
- Susan G. Komen: This organization, dedicated to ending breast cancer, offers a breast care helpline staffed by trained social workers and the latest information on the disease.
- Zero Prostate Cancer: The support options offered by this nonprofit include a patient helpline, educational materials, and more than 145 in-person and virtual support groups for prostate cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.
Grief Support Resources for Cancer Caregivers
Providing care to a cancer patient can be physically and emotionally draining, which is why it’s vital that these individuals get the support they need and deserve.
Resources for cancer caregivers include:
- CancerCare: This group offers free, professional support for caregivers and their loved ones, like counseling, support groups, workshops, and more.
- Caregiver Resource Guide: This comprehensive guide is designed by the ACS to help cancer caregivers learn how to care for themselves, understand what their loved one is going through, and develop coping skills.
- National Cancer Institute: This organization provides information on coping with being a cancer caregiver, taking care of yourself, and providing long-distance caregiving.
Grief Support Resources for Widows and Widowers
Losing a spouse to cancer can be incredibly difficult, but there are supportive services available to help people in this situation.
Resources for widows and widowers include:
- Hope for Widows Foundation: This nonprofit organization offers services to widows, including a private Facebook group, to help guide them through the grieving process.
- National Widowers Organization: The group considers itself a “virtual toolkit” for men dealing with the loss of a partner and provides resources to help widowers learn about grief and connect with others who have endured a similar loss.
Grief Support Resources for Children
Children may experience grief when a parent, grandparent, or other relative is affected by cancer or when they are diagnosed with cancer.
Fortunately, unique resources are available to help young people cope with their emotions.
Grief resources for children include:
- The Dougy Center: This group provides resources geared at helping kids, teens, and young adults cope before and after the death of a relative. Information is categorized by age and includes activities to help young people express their grief.
- National Alliance for Children’s Grief: NACG is a network of professionals dedicated to providing support and resources to grieving children and their caregivers.
- Winston’s Wish: This nonprofit provides on-demand grief services for grieving children and young adults through a helpline, a text line, and a live chat option.
Grief Support Resources for Parents of Cancer Patients
Losing a child to cancer can be devastating. No parent should outlive their child, but sadly, this is a hardship that some parents must face.
Grief resources for parents include:
- Bereaved Parents of the USA: This organization provides support to grieving parents, siblings, and grandparents of children who have passed away, including support groups and in-person events for grieving families.
- Cope Foundation: Grieving parents can connect with support groups or call a helpline for emotional support after the death of a child.
- The Compassionate Friends: This nonprofit has local chapters and online support available to bereaved families coping with the death of a child.
Mesothelioma grief support resources are also available in several different formats, depending on what is most desired and convenient.
Cancer Grief Support Groups
Grief support groups, both online and in-person, can provide those grieving with a safe environment to share their feelings and be heard.
“Participating in a group provides you with an opportunity to be with people who are likely to have a common purpose and likely to understand one another.”
– Mayo Clinic
Support groups for cancer grief include:
- Cancer Support Community: This nonprofit provides a free online cancer community for over 25,000 active members and allows people to create their own network for friends and family.
- Cancer Survivors Network: Sponsored by the ACS, this online community and support center is an online peer support group for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and family members.
- GriefShare: This platform offers online grief support groups organized by grief type and in-person support groups.
You can search online for cancer bereavement support groups in your area or call your local hospital. Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship often host support groups for people who have lost a loved one.
Additionally, funeral homes and hospice programs may be able to direct you to a local cancer loss support group.
When to Get Professional Help
For some people, the cancer grieving process can become overwhelming, so it’s essential to know when professional help is necessary.
You may need to see a grief therapist if you’re having suicidal thoughts, depression, panic attacks, or feelings that your life is meaningless, especially if it’s been a while since your loss occurred
Cancer grief counseling can provide the additional support that someone struggling with grief may need to move forward with their life.
Remember, help is available — you don’t have to walk this path by yourself.
Other Resources for Dealing With Grief and Cancer
In addition to websites and support groups, books, podcasts, and blogs are other resources that those grieving a cancer loss can access to help understand their feelings and cope.
These resources include:
- Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief by Joan Cacciatore: Written by a bereavement educator, this book shows how grief can open the heart to connection and compassion.
- Cancer Out Loud: The CancerCare Podcast: Sponsored by CancerCare, this podcast series features conversations with cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.
- Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss by Jan Warner: Those who are grieving can work to find peace by using this grief recovery handbook. The daily reflections and practices speak to the emotions and experiences that accompany the grieving process.
- Grief Healing: This blog, written by a bereavement counselor who is also a bereaved parent and daughter, has comprehensive information on grief, including grief healing and coping with special days.
- Grief Out Loud: This podcast is sponsored by The Dougy Center, which provides grief education and support for children, teens, young adults, and families. A recent episode talks about grief during the holidays.
- Hardcore Grief Recovery: An Honest Guide to Getting through Grief without the Condolences, Sympathy, and Other BS by Steve Case: This grief recovery handbook takes an unflinchingly honest approach to navigating grief.