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When a Parent is Terminally Ill

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 26 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Terminal Illness Terminally Ill Parents

Parents provide a sense of stability and comfort for their children, whether the kids are still young or fully grown and raising families of their own. Finding out that a parent is terminally ill is sure to be devastating news, no matter the ages of their children.

When Kids are Not Yet Grown

There is a certain distinct sadness at the idea of children losing a parent before they’ve reached adulthood. Young children are completely dependent of their parents and the early loss of a parent can leave scars that last a lifetime, especially if children are not allowed and encouraged to express their feelings. Although it can be difficult for the healthy parent to listen to the pain that their children are experiencing (after all, that parent is grieving, too), kids need to have an outlet for the emotional turmoil that comes with anticipating the loss of a parent. Ideally, children should be as informed as possible about the ailing parent’s condition, with information given, of course, based on each child’s ability to understand and handle it. Kids are likely to have questions, and their inquiries should be met with truthful responses. Young children may ask only about how the illness and impending death will impact them, for example, wondering who will now perform the caretaking tasks that the terminally ill parent has previously handled, but older kids may seek answers to the more difficult questions. Matters of faith and the afterlife are commonplace, and parents must help their older kids and teens to find answers that will bring comfort and acceptance.

Adult Children

Just because a person has a few wrinkles doesn’t mean that they are emotionally prepared to say goodbye to their parents. Parental influence continues into adulthood and the connection between children and their parents often deepens with time. Adult children are able to see their parents as they really are, and are often appreciative of the love and care they received as children, further endearing their parents to them. The idea of their once strong and health parents as frail and dying can be quite traumatic for many adults, and the prospect of living without them disconcerting. While it is natural for children to outlive their parents, a parent’s demise is still an upsetting reality.

Adult kids should allow themselves the time to grieve, even if they are acting as caregivers for a terminally ill parent. Grieving begins with the knowledge that the end is approaching, and anticipating the loss can be as troublesome as experiencing the actual loss. Sadness and anxiety are perfectly normal reactions to the terminal illness of a parent and loved ones should not only acknowledge their difficult emotions, but should talk about them as well, seeking help if they feel overwhelmed by their feelings.

Lasting Memories

Older kids, teens, and adults will undoubtedly cherish the memories that they have of their parents, but babies and young children are unlikely to have formed lasting memories. Terminally ill parents may wish to create memory books, taped messages, or videos for their children so that the kids can have tangible connections to the parent that they may not personally remember. In this way, parents can help their children to understand just how much they were loved, even if they cannot recall the connection they once had with their parent.

The loss of a parent is never an easy thing, no matter how old we are. The people who brought us into this world and then dedicated themselves to nurturing us will remain forever a part of us, forever living on in our memories. Children of all ages, upon finding out that one of their parents is terminally ill, should take the time to express all of their love and admiration for that parent, while they are blessed with the time to do so.

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Nanny - Your Question:
I am sitting here on the day four years ago my daughter passed from cancer. At the same time both my parents were on hospice dying. I was caregiver for my parents and also spending as much time as I could taking care of my daughter( she did have a husband) and four sons ( my grandsons who I was very very close to. I daily took them to school ,picked them up ,made dinner,did the things my daughter could no longer do while her husband worked daily. Still caring for my parents,my father was paralyzed from a stroke so myself and sister would take turns every other day cook diner for both parents and give both daily baths. To try to shorten my story my mother passed first 3 months later my dad passed which left much more of their last wishes to complete. Then my daughter passed. My grandsons were 4,10,13,18. Their father moved ,he won't ket me know where they live ,he changed his phone number and remarried. I was the closest person they had. My question us his do I keep their mothers memories alive when I am not in their lives anymore? I can not get over the loss of of so many I love.

Our Response:
I am very sorry to hear this. The only route you have here is to take some legal advice regarding this. Your eldest grandchild can make their own decision whether he/she wishes to reconnect with you. You may also be allowed to apply to court to have access to your other grandchildren. There are different ways of trying to locate children, one is trying to find your eldest via social media (you can contact yoru eldest freely). The other is to fill in a C4 form, which is and application to the courts to disclose the whereabouts of a child or children (a solicitor would advise whether the court will allow you to do this). This would allow you to apply for access to your grandchildren through the courts via a C100 contact form. Increasingly, grandparents are being considered as integral to the family and maintaining these connections are considered important by the courts. I hope this helps.
TerminalIllness - 27-Mar-17 @ 10:25 AM
I am sitting here on the day four years ago my daughter passed from cancer. At the same time both my parents were on hospice dying. I was caregiver for my parents and also spending as much time as I could taking care of my daughter( she did have a husband) and four sons ( my grandsons who I was very very close to. I daily took them to school ,picked them up ,made dinner,did the things my daughter could no longer do while her husband worked daily. Still caring for my parents,my father was paralyzed from a stroke so myself and sister would take turns every other day cook diner for both parents and give both daily baths. To try to shorten my story my mother passed first 3 months later my dad passed which left much more of their last wishes to complete. Then my daughter passed. My grandsons were 4,10,13,18. Their father moved ,he won't ket me know where they live ,he changed his phone number and remarried. I was the closest person they had. My question us his do I keep their mothers memories alive when I am not in their lives anymore?I can not get over the loss of of so many I love.
Nanny - 26-Mar-17 @ 6:26 AM
My mom been dead for awhile I havegreat memories of her. Someday I cry she had terminal illness she died from lung cancer/brain cancer. My life trying to come together again. Now I am trying to make a better version of myself since I am 25 years old. I gained weight I exercise my diet is lacking but I am trying to eat right and not be so depressed. People will talk about Jesus crisis but at the end of the day life is short.
Ken-Ken - 18-Mar-16 @ 9:57 PM
Jo - Your Question:
My mother who is 78 yrs old lives 3500 miles away from me. She had a stroke 6 months ago leaving her paralyzed. One day she was independent and living happily on her own, the next day totally dependant on others to take care of her. I am her only child, no other family members. I put my life on hold and travelled 3500 miles to be with her for 3 months. She blames me for her being in a nursing home. She became very hostile towards me. I know it is not my fault she had a stroke. I have bent over backwards to make sure she gets good care and am paying for private physical therapy which is not helping. I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do to help. My Mother wants to die and cannot bear living like this. It is SO PAINFUL for me to see her go through this. I wish the Lord would take her. I just got off the phone with her, she was sobbing that it is so degrading what she has to go through. I feel so helpless. Can anyone suggest a good support group to help me deal with my broken heart, or help me get my Mother in to better spirits. Mother has lost interest in everything, all she does is cry. please help me.

Our Response:
I am very sorry to hear this. The National Stroke Association is an obvious choice and it encompasses the Careliving Community, which is a social network site designed for caregivers and family members of stroke survivors hosted by National Stroke Association, link here. There is also a lot of advice on offer across every aspect of the disability. I hope this helps.
TerminalIllness - 2-Nov-15 @ 2:06 PM
My mother who is 78 yrs old lives 3500 miles away from me. She had a stroke 6 months ago leaving her paralyzed. One day she was independent and living happily on her own, the next day totally dependant on others to take care of her. I am her only child, no other family members. I put my life on hold and travelled 3500 miles to be with her for 3 months. She blames me for her being in a nursing home. She became very hostile towards me. I know it is not my fault she had a stroke. I have bent over backwards to make sure she gets good care and am paying for private physical therapy which is not helping. I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do to help. My Mother wants to die and cannot bear living like this. It is SO PAINFUL for me to see her go through this. I wish the Lord would take her. I just got off the phone with her, she was sobbing that it is so degrading what she has to go through. I feel so helpless. Can anyone suggest a good support group to help me deal with my broken heart, or help me get my Mother in to better spirits. Mother has lost interest in everything, all she does is cry. please help me.
Jo - 1-Nov-15 @ 3:34 PM
My mother has terminal pancreatic cancer and has been given less than 6mnth to live we would like her and my father who have been married for35 years to renew their wedding vows but do not have the funds we just want it simple can anybody help please get in touch. Thankyou.
joanne - 4-Jan-15 @ 11:41 PM
My ex husband is terminally ill and its,affecting my youngest daughter.We finally talked about her feelings and thoughts about her dad.I let her,know that i am here for her and she can cry, scream, shout, be mad or happy.I know its hard for her to see her dad ill.Is it healthy for her to ralk to me rather than a therapist. Our talk helped her and allowed her to rest and fall a sleep.Please any info would be appreciated. Worried about her daughter
Izzie - 15-Oct-13 @ 10:06 PM
What if a spouse's terminal illness is literally killing his wife.Married 29 years and she wants a divorce.She thought he would pass away within the next few months but now she was told it will be at least a year.She can no longer "hang in there".She wants OUT but of course has guilt.What does she do?
Sue - 24-Nov-12 @ 1:43 AM
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