I've had two people who have influenced the way I react to bad news. My Mom, of course, and her best friend, "Aunt" Carleen. I am trying to figure out what they had in common so I could bottle their strength in adversity.
I've come to the conclusion they are opposites.
Put a major setback in front of each (for the purpose of example, let's say adult-onset diabetes) and they would have these reactions:
Aunt Carleen: "Well. I am astonished. It is just the Latest in a Series of Bizaarrrrre Incidents that have happened of late in my life."
Aunt Carleen did speak just like that; like a sober Julia Child. "Bizzaaarrrrre" and "IN-sane, simply IN-sane" were her catchphrases.
She was perpetually astonished by ill fortune. She, an overweight middle-aged woman, acquiring adult-onset diabetes? Really? It. Is. A-STONishing! Did you ever hear of such a thing? Simply madness! She would shake her head over the bizarreness of it all. Then she'd eat a ham sandwich on Wonder bread and chips.
Mom doesn't have and will never have adult-onset diabetes, but were she diagnosed, this is what she'd say:
Mom: "Oh. That now? Of course, we will need to switch immediately to the Diabetes Plan. I have lain awake and plotted just how I would have diabetes.Well, let me go in my clippings folder and look through all the newspaper articles I have collected for such a circumstance. And a call to Dr. F_____ is in order, since he's the top diabetes doctor in the area, according to my research."
Where Carleen would say illness and bad news were aberrations to her perfect normal life, Mom would find perfection an aberration. Both attitudes were equally positive. Carleen: "My life is great! Oddly, this crap keeps happening to me." Mom: "My life is crap. But, I expect that, and quite often, there are nice spots."
They certainly aren't like some (in-laws) who see their lives as a timeline of bad luck. "My life is crap. And then insane crap unexpectedly falls on me! Why me?"
I suppose the secret is to go to either extreme: Embrace the bad news completely and absorb it into your life, or Deny it (Bizzzaaaare!). Well, I should tell you Aunt Carleen did die of diabetes, still eating candy bars and Wonder bread. Maybe not that much denial.
So maybe the trick is to take the bad news, and simultaneously view it as an oddity and embrace it as part of your life. You know who's probably good at that? Circus freaks.