Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
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23-11-2012, 02:50 AM
Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
My year is just getting more and more annoying as it goes on.
I have just been told by my mother that my uncle has inoperable bowl cancer and has been recommended to be placed in palliative care by the surgeon who worked on him. As my mother was telling me and my brother, she had tears welling in her eyes and my brother looked away, I swear I saw his skin delve into a shade of white that was almost bright.
I simply sat on my bed, legs crossed occasionally saying "uh huh" "yes" or nodding my head whenever my mother looked at me.

To be honest, every time I am told of something bad like this happening, I never react in a way people seem to want me to react. They always look at me and seem to get angered at my lack of reaction. By lack of a reaction I mean I do nothing; I don't cry or get teary-eyed or anything usually. Hell writing this is something unique.

And every time I don't react like everybody else does I get annoyed at myself, and I wonder if it's bad; What am I supposed to do?


And so, I figured I'd tell you guys, whom over my short time here I have begun to consider confidants and sources of knowledge & wisdom, and ask:

Is my lack of a reaction bad? And why do family members seem to become agitated by it? How am I supposed to react so they don't get annoyed by me?

I figured this would be the right spot for this to go, if not feel free to move it wherever.

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23-11-2012, 04:50 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
I am very much like you in such things. If I do react it is wrong. Actually I tend to shock people by saying something completely logic but not emotional. I guess people would be waiting for an empty phrase like "I'm so sorry for you" but I am not good with empty phrases.
You know, you could just try and prepare some things that you could say in such a situation so you seem less non-caring. That is how I learnt to deal with many situations where I reacted wrong, I just prepared things I could say and tadaa it works.

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23-11-2012, 05:16 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
Do you feel anything about his getting cancer?

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23-11-2012, 05:31 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
I am pretty much that way too, I don't show much negative emotion in front of people. I am just rational and try to be helpful.

And this is how I have learned to deal with that : I ask questions that aim to be helpful.

"Can I help somehow"?

"Can do xxx for you so you have more time?"

"Would you like me to call xxx"?

I wait until somene looks at me and then I ask the first question. It works. It shows I care. And I end up being considered helpful instead of cold.

And it doesn't mean that you are cold at all. Everyone deals with such things in different ways, we have different coping mechanisms and we are also affected by things in different ways, depending on emotional involvement, stage of life and many other things.

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23-11-2012, 05:33 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
Logica,

Honestly, not much at all, after about a second of shock, I don't think I felt anything.

Don't get me wrong, he is a much loved uncle, or perhaps that should be "was"... but I feel the same way anything like this happens; A second of shock and then nothing, or perhaps it could be better said as a odd calm kind of feeling, just sitting there not doing anything rather than nothing at all.

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23-11-2012, 06:51 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
(23-11-2012 05:33 AM)Free Thought Wrote:  Logica,

Honestly, not much at all, after about a second of shock, I don't think I felt anything.

Don't get me wrong, he is a much loved uncle, or perhaps that should be "was"... but I feel the same way anything like this happens; A second of shock and then nothing, or perhaps it could be better said as a odd calm kind of feeling, just sitting there not doing anything rather than nothing at all.


Just don't fret. You are not good at faking emotions, and at your age, it is totally normal not to be overwhelmed by them. In your 40s, 50s and 60s etc. that will change because you would have been interacting with that person for many decades and the involvement level would be high, as well as the fact that it hits closer to home, you are more mortal then.

I really wouldn't worry about it, your emotions are what they are. And like I said, you can cover up for it with helpfulness.

Your uncle IS, not was. He is living, breathing and probably scared as shit. It would be good to be kind to him, just as a human being.

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23-11-2012, 09:30 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
I suppose you are right. Though I do recognize mortality, even if most my age don't, they're morons anyway.
Though I don't know what I could do to be helpful to anybody.

But the fact is, if that surgeon is right, that "was" is justified, just a too little early...

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23-11-2012, 09:56 AM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
(23-11-2012 09:30 AM)Free Thought Wrote:  I suppose you are right. Though I do recognize mortality, even if most my age don't, they're morons anyway.
Though I don't know what I could do to be helpful to anybody.

But the fact is, if that surgeon is right, that "was" is justified, just a too little early...


As long as a person is breathing they have feelings and are very much alive, even if you cannot relate to such a state. In many ways it's the most important part of their LIFE. What happens to them now is EVERYTHING to them. Every word, look, interaction is hugely important.

And yes, of course you understand mortality intellectually, but you don't feel it in your bones and that makes you unable to relate to those who do.

Nothing wrong with that, it's natural that way. Don't let it worry you. Just be as nice and helpful as you can and you will have helped those more affected by it.

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23-11-2012, 12:57 PM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
You are not reacting in any way you shouldn't. There are 7 'stages' (relatively) of loss and grief, and not all 7 are necessary or need to be visited for a specific amount of time. The last one is acceptance. If that is an 'easy' place for you to get to it doesn't mean you lack empathy or caring or any emotions that make you you. If you have no emotions ever, then that is a cause for concern- but in respect to the emotions you own for yourself and loss or death, there is no rule for a way to feel.
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23-11-2012, 01:44 PM
RE: Family, cancer and lacking a reaction
I am precisely the same way. And actually, there are times when I've received such heavy information and my immediate reaction is laughter. After much in-depth soul-searching, I still have no idea why.

Having no reaction or deeply-seeded feeling is not a bad thing. The reason people tend to view it as such is because we're a social species. We evolved as a unit of somewhat like-minded individuals. When something bad happens, we instinctually expect others to care, and to express their concern in some way. When people like you and me don't express the appropriate response to such news, it sets off an alarm hidden deep, deep within the evolutionary past of everyone in the room. It signals that we're somehow different from them; we're not outwardly sympathetic to their plight, and this could mean that we're some kind of outsider. Some kind of threat. It scares them. They don't know why they feel scared, and they may not even realize that it's fear, but they are scared. In turn, they react with anger or frustration.

You're doing just fine. Don't worry about them. If you're concerned about their feelings, however, I could only recommend that you fake it to whatever degree you feel most comfortable.

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