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Taylor Swift has revealed some very sad news with her fans.

Image: Taylor Swift and her mum Andrea in 2010 (Getty)

Even if her music isn’t your cup of soup, you have to admire the effort Taylor Swift channels into forging a warm, personal relationship with her fans.

Follow the 25-year-old pop star on any of her social media platforms for long enough, and her photos, videos and anecdotes will make you feel like you’ve known her — and all her friends, family members, and two adorable cats — for years. (Post continues after gallery.)

Last night, the Shake It Off singer posted a new, deeply personal update for her thousands of Tumblr followers — only this time, it was to reveal some terribly sad news about her mum Andrea Garner Finlay.

“I’m writing to you with an update I wish I wasn’t giving you, but it’s important and I’m used to sharing important events in my life with you,” Swift begins.

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“For Christmas this year, I asked my mom that one of her gifts to me be her going to the doctor to get screened for any health issues, just to ease some worries of mine … The results came in, and I’m saddened to tell you that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer. I’d like to keep the details of her condition and treatment plans private, but she wanted you to know.”

Having a friend, family member or even an acquaintance diagnosed with cancer, or any serious medical condition, is enough to shake anyone to the core. It’s also heartbreaking when someone you know receives devastating news like this.

Andrea Gardner Finlay holding a copy of her daughter's latest album (via Instagram)

If you've never been in the same position yourself, it can be hard to find the right words to adequately, and sensitively, express your empathy and support. Too often, our fear of saying the wrong thing prevents us from saying anything at all — especially when it comes to something as scary as a cancer diagnosis.

"Rather than being fearful of upsetting the person, or anxious about saying the wrong thing, being genuine in the way you communicate yourself and provide support is the most important thing," says psychologist Pinar Karabulut.

"I think absence of support can be detrimental to those affected by it, because this is the time when they need the most amount of help."

In the immediate wake of sad news, it's possible that your friend won't be up to face-to-face talking because they'll have so much to deal with. At this point, the most important thing to do is express empathy and let them know you're there and happy to listen and help when they're ready.

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"You could say something like, "I've just heard the sad news, I can only imagine what you're going through," or, "I'm so sorry for what's happened". It's also about communicating hope; "I'm here for you, I'm here to listen to you, and we'll go through this together"," Ms Karabulut suggests.

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"Let them know that you'll be on the journey together and that you'll be accompanying them, holding their hands gently and making sure that they're okay, but not being overly involved, nor being not involved at all. It's about being a non-judgemental, empathic ear and offering kind support."

Ms Karabulut also recommends keeping your conversations focused on those people who are directly affected by the news, and avoiding the urge to mention other similar cases you know about.

Taylor Swift with her family last Thanksgiving (via Instagram)

"Talking about a family friend who had a family member with cancer and is fine now is not going to be highly helpful initially, as your friend will be struggling to think about others; they'll be focused on what they're going through," she says.

Often when our loved ones come to us with problems or conundrums, our first instinct is to offer a practical ways to help them resolve it. However, in the wake of shattering news — particularly of a medical nature — Ms Karabulut says providing advice isn't as helpful.

"It's more about offering an opportunity for them to have someone to talk to and being a listening ear, rather than being the one who advises as to how they should do things and what they should do to manage their difficult situation," she explains.

That doesn't mean you can't be helpful in a more practical way. Eventually, when your friend is ready to sit down and figure out the logistics of their situation moving forward, they might benefit from having someone to brainstorm with.

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"They might need someone who can think clearly in terms of planning how things are going to happen. That might be as simple as diarising appointments and diarising time for them to look after themselves," Ms Karabulut explains.

"It can be helpful to rephrase what they say and feed it back to them — 'So you're going to attend this appointment with your mum on this date, let me know how it all goes' - helping them organise things in their minds as well as logistically."

It's also important to remember that you don't necessarily have to express your empathy vocally. Sending an email or text to let the person know you're there for them is also valuable support.

"Even non verbal support, I think, is just as important — if you're lucky enough to be physically close to this person, just a pat on the back or a hug can just communicate so much more support than any other word. Expressing that warmth, that genuine support it just as important," Ms Karabulut says.

How do you express your support to a loved one who's going through a tough time?