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Coping With A Loved One's Terminal Illness

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 3 Nov 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Coping Cancer Health Illness Death Grief

Coping with a loved one’s terminal illness may be one of the hardest challenges that you face in your life. Terminal illnesses are those from which there will be no recovery, so in effect when you face a terminal illness you face an illness that will lead to death and, for family and friends, the pain of loss. There is no right way to cope with a loved one’s terminal illness, only the way that is most suitable for you and your family. However, seeking guidance from a counsellor member of the clergy when a loved one is dying is quite common helps many people deal with their emotions.

Changing Relationships Due to Terminal Illness

When a loved on is diagnosed with a terminal illness (s)he may react in different ways. Some people become more of what they already are, so that patient or flexible people become even more so, while other people seem to become the exact opposite of what they were, so that patient people become impatient or angry people become calm. There is usually no way to tell how an individual will react to news of deteriorating health, but it is important for friends and family to remember that their loved ones are entitled to their emotions. It is also important to remember that these emotions may impact family relationships and friendships, so these changes should not come as a shock.

Dealing with Denial about a Terminal Illness

When faced with the fact that a loved one is dying, some family members and friends are unable to cope with this prognosis. Sometimes it may be the ill person who denies that (s)he is dying. This is because denial is actually a coping mechanism. Usually denial comes into play because the individual is too frightened or worried about the future to entertain thoughts of it. However it may be that these people just need some gentle questioning in order to be able to speak about their thoughts and fears. Sometimes all individuals in denial need is the knowledge that others are ready and willing to support them and they are able to discuss their emotions and move beyond denial.

Seeking Support from Family

Often those who are supporting a loved one with a terminal illness need support themselves and families can become united in grief. Children need their parents and parents need their children. Spouses need each other. Siblings come together to offer support. Unfortunately, some family members may be so involved in their own emotions that they may not be able to provide the support that others need. In these situations support groups, such as for families of cancer victims, can be invaluable. Private counselling or counselling with a member of the clergy may also be important for those who feel they need extra support through this tough time.

Coping with a loved one’s terminal illness is often a difficult task. Recognising the different emotions that may influence this period is important in order to cope in a healthy, productive manner.

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Dear MHZ My husband is in terminal stage of kidney disease.Love and support from family and friends has meant a huge amount to us both, so I'm sure your time with her will mean such a lot.It's so difficult to deal with, but at least you will have time to share how much she means to you, and talk about your life together.It is so special to have siblings who have travelled with you in life. Unfortunately there are no charts to help us through these stormy seas, an inevitable consequence of having love in your life, but so difficult to bear.You will most likely be experiencing the effects of bereavement as you go along.Be prepared for shock, anger, great sadness.Sorry, but I don't know if sugar coating that would help.You will find strength from your love for each other and recognition of how much you mean to each other.Some form of adapting will happen, and you can take comfort from the comfort you give to her. Lastly take very good care of yourself at this time. This is my own first experience of losing a loved one, so I hope my thoughts are at least a little help. I wish you strength and love Juno
Juno - 22-Aug-18 @ 10:48 AM
My husband has motor neuron disease he's only 59 we have been told he only has months we have only been married three years I was so happy when I found him he's my love my soul mate my best friend I can't stop crying I am devastated I don't what I'm going to do I just want to go with him when he goes I can't think of life without him
Louise27 - 25-May-18 @ 8:31 PM
Gabs - Your Question:
My husband Leslie passed on 18 March of esophageal cancer. He as misdignosed originally so was givev only 3-5 months to live. I home nursed him for 16 months using alternative therapy and he had a good quality of life until the last week. We had no children. He was the love of my life and my rock and inspiration. We would have been married 35 years in September. He was 13 years older than me but looked and behaved 20 years younger with an amazing energy. I "dont want to" get over him" or "move on" I waited 42 years for my soulmate and though I try hard to be cheerful when around others I am heartbroken. I have interests independent of him but can't settle to anything.

Our Response:
Don't expect to "get over him" or "move on" - whoever tells you that is just trying to be kind but perhaps doesn't really know what it is like to lose someone with whom you've spent so long and in such an intense relationship. Do talk though...if you don't want to talk to friends or family, try counselling or a local bereavement support group. It's fine to remember and it's also fine to forget, there are no rights or wrongs in the way you grieve. Take care
FacingBereavement - 26-Apr-17 @ 12:08 PM
My husband Leslie passed on 18 March of esophageal cancer. He as misdignosed originally so was givev only 3-5 months to live. I home nursed him for 16 months using alternative therapy and he had a good quality of life until the last week. We had no children. He was the love of my life and my rock and inspiration. We would have been married 35 years in September. He was 13 years older than me but looked and behaved 20 years younger with an amazing energy. I "dont want to" get over him" or "move on" I waited 42 years for my soulmate and though I try hard to be cheerful when around others I am heartbroken.I have interests independent of him but can't settle to anything.
Gabs - 25-Apr-17 @ 6:43 AM
My husband passed away on 10th Jan this year, he had metastatic prostrate cancer. We would have been very happily married for 50 years on April 1st and that was the one date he wanted to reach. For me the grief is so very raw and most times all I want is to be with him, I am not depressed just so very very sad. I have the most amazing family who are very supportive but that does not stop me feeling as though part of me has been ripped away, he was the love of my life. So many people keep saying it's early days, yes I know that but if one more person says it I think I will scream. I try to keep busy and I do force myself to go out but all I really want to do is stay at home where I feel his presence.
Polly - 28-Mar-17 @ 1:02 PM
Hi, My younger sister has been diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer 3 weeks ago.She does not know yet.Her husband and her brother in law who are doctors, they informed me.They have not told me the time but I guess it will not be longer than 6 months. I am in a big shock, fear and deeply stressed. She is living in out of the country and I am going to see her on Thursday.I have planned to get sometimes off the work to be with her but I don't know if I can bear it. Please help me how I can cope with this disaster,
MHZ - 20-Mar-17 @ 8:11 PM
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