Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Recurrence or Progressive Illness

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How might my advancing cancer affect my child’s religious faith?

For some families, a strong faith makes all the difference in getting through life and its challenges. During cancer treatment, faith is often an ongoing source of comfort and strength. For some, faith is tested in unexpected ways when a person has cancer—after diagnosis, during treatment, during recurrence, and after. Children at any age may also question how God or their higher power could allow their parent to have cancer, especially if there’s a chance that a parent might die.

Your answers reflect who you are.

The issue of why bad things happen to good people is one that many humans struggle with. Do you believe that people get cancer as some sort of punishment for past mistakes, or is cancer a random event? Your own answer reflects who you are, your family beliefs about these things, and your own philosophy of life. At times like these, talking with a spiritual counselor or leader might bring comfort or help you to focus your spiritual direction. Do not hesitate to reach out for help for yourself and your children. Sometimes your spiritual advisor can help you explain things better to your child—this may help you, too.

The word faith implies that trust or belief is required. So faith is not a proven or scientific theory. This means that faith is more about asking questions than giving out answers—more about the process of searching rather than knowing. For instance, if you believe that your higher power is merciful and not punishing, you may want to share that belief with your family. If you’re not sure exactly how religion fits into your life, it’s OK to share that uncertainty, too. You can say something like “I’m not really sure how I feel right now—some days I’m really angry and not sure what to believe.” By being honest you lay the foundation for more truth and openness within the family.

Last Medical Review: 07/20/2012
Last Revised: 07/20/2012