Dealing with a Terminal Illness Diagnosis


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Receiving the news that you have a life-limiting illness is a devastating event, both for the person who receives the diagnosis and for their partner or spouse, children, siblings, other relatives, and friends. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an illness that is impossible to cure, you are bound to be experiencing many different emotions, possibly in conflict with one another, such as fear of being in pain, concern for how your loved ones are going to deal with the news and practical worries about needing to sort out your finances. Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones through this extremely difficult time.

Have Honest Conversations

Many people find the prospect of talking about illness and death daunting and may avoid talking about it altogether as a coping strategy, even when faced with a diagnosis of a terminal illness and with the prospect of death occurring in the near future. It is often relatives or friends who fall into silence or other avoidant behaviors when faced with a terminal illness diagnosis, while the sick patient themselves is likely to feel a need to talk about their illness and any fears they have for their future, as a way of processing the situation and their feelings about it. Fortunately, there are resources out there, such as this one from, which can give you some tips to help you navigate these difficult conversations. Chiefly, don’t be afraid to express your own feelings, even difficult ones such as fear or sadness, or to ask direct questions to prompt your loved ones to open up about their own emotions.

Get Professional Psychological Support

No matter how close a relationship you have with your partner or your best friend, it would be unhealthy for the both of you if they turned into your sole source of support, especially because they will also be dealing with their own emotions in this extremely difficult situation. If you and your loved ones haven’t already found yourselves a therapist, a counselor, or a support group, this directory from Psychology Today can help you find therapists, treatment centers, support groups, and even ‘teletherapy’ services—which you may find particularly useful during a pandemic.

Find the Best Possible Care

Many patients with a terminal illness choose to get help with physical pain and prepare to say goodbye to their loved ones through hospice or palliative care. The best healthcare facilities will include provisions for supporting patients’ relatives; for instance, LightBridge Hospice in San Diego continues to provide emotional support to the bereaved families of deceased patients for a whole year after the death. If you have financial concerns, don’t forget that there are many health-related non-profits out there too, which may be able to provide both practical and emotional support to both the patient and their loved ones for free through volunteers.

Throughout this difficult process, don’t forget to have fun and create memories with your loved ones!

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