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Coping with a Loved One Who Is Terminally Ill


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Jan 13, 2017

Coping with a Loved One Who Is Terminally Ill

Going through a t-erminal illness with a family, friend, or loved one is painful, terrifying, and exhausting. Long illnesses take their toll on the person suffering and on the people caring for him or her. Death looms as an inevitability, and although death is always inevitable, you know how close it is as you travel this journey with the person you love. Knowing how to proceed, what to say, what to plan, and just what you're supposed to do … none of that comes easily, nor does it prepare you for the emotional and mental toll a lingering illness takes.

The Truth about Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is one of the most difficult things to deal with as you travel through the last days of a chronic, fatal illness. Just like the phrase suggests, this is a grief that comes when you know someone you love is going to die. Essentially, you start grieving before your loved one passes simply because you know it's coming. On the plus side, this allows you to share your love, fears, and thoughts with the person while they're still with you. Unfortunately, anticipatory grief does not cancel out or replace the pain that comes after someone dies. That grief is still waiting for you.

Helping Your Loved One through Their Grief

Your loved one feels grief, as well. He or she is also scared, sad, anxious, and angry—the same feelings you have, magnified a thousand fold. Guiding your loved one through rage, denial, and depression is heart-rending. It hurts. Sometimes, your loved one may lash out in a fit of anger. Have patience and compassion. Listen. Ask questions, but mostly listen.

Say What You Need to Say

During a long illness, you have the unique opportunity for some semblance of closure. Take the opportunity to talk to your loved one. Don't leave anything unsaid. Share memories. Say “I love you.” If there are confessions or truths you've been keeping to yourself, now is the time to say it.

Most of all, be a presence full of love, comfort, support, and compassion. Listen to anything your loved one needs to say. Take advantage of this opportunity to be with the person you love during his or her final moments.