Coping With Bad News

I’ve spent much of the last two weeks cleaning out my mother-in-law’s apartment. She had to move into a board and care home[1]. It’s been kind of sad seeing all the things she used to be in all the pictures and papers she kept.

Like anyone with a chronic condition, I know the reality of aging and death. As hard as our society tries to deny it, this will happen to all of us. This isn’t really bad news, but it does make me sad.

But things become much sadder when I turn on the TV (or more often, go online), and read and see pictures from the Gulf of Mexico[2]. Or from Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Gaza, or all the other places where war, poverty, and hunger are the norm. Again, I know we’re all going to die, eventually. But some of this news, especially the environmental stuff[3], is so scary and so awful, I start wondering if anyone will survive. How do you cope with that?

Yesterday, I was on a political Web site where many of the posters in the comments section were Native Americans. One of them wrote, “Today you hear more bad news in one day than we heard in an entire lifetime before the Europeans came.”


That really shook me up. I’ve become so used to living in a world of horrors that I can’t remember what life is supposed to be about. Like many of us, I often don’t recognize the toll all this bad news takes. I despair sometimes. It’s hard to see sources of hope.

Of course, having a chronic illness doesn’t help. When your numbers are up, or your neuropathy[4] is worse, or a new complication[5] develops, how do you keep a positive attitude? My multiple sclerosis takes up an ever-increasing share of my life. It takes longer to do things, and there are more things I can’t do at all. Sometimes I think my personal illness/disability gets combined with the world’s illnesses to make things seem hopeless.

But of course there are still pleasures and loves and reasons to live. My mother-in-law is actually happy in her new home, by her standards at least. (She never was the happiest sort.) She gets to sit out in a sunny garden every day and read. She rarely got out before. She has more help and less work — no work at all, actually. Losing the things she used to do is OK with her, for now at least.

I still have good times, too. I went to Washington a few weeks ago to serve on an expert panel on self-management. Yesterday I went to Pride day[6] in San Francisco and saw all the colorfully dressed and undressed LGBT people having a good time. It was fun.

On Saturday, I went to a sports bar and watched the World Cup with a bunch of loudmouth fans. They were upset when the USA lost, but I was happy for the Ghanaians. When I think about it, I’m actually having more fun and doing more interesting things than I have in years.

But still, the despair is always there. It’s more about the world than about me, but it’s still there. How do you cope with all the bad news? How do you keep your faith in the future? When your diabetes is acting up, does it bring you down psychologically or spiritually? What are your best tips for coping? I think many of our readers could use your wisdom. I know I can.

  1. board and care home:
  2. Gulf of Mexico:
  3. environmental stuff:
  4. neuropathy:
  5. complication:
  6. Pride day:

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David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 40 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. He is the author of four books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis — Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006, Diabetes Heroes (Jim Healthy 2014), and The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the road to wellness (Smashwords 2015.) He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) magazines. His website is His blog is

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