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Illness and Death

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Terminal Illness Talking About Terminal

After receiving news that they are terminally ill, many people wonder about how to tell others in their lives. Sharing such sad news is not easy, but it must be done. Depending on the relationships involved, sharing the news of a serious illness can be a highly emotional experience.

Talking to Children

Sitting down with a child to talk about the death or impending death of someone that they love is one of the most difficult tasks that parents can have. Children are often blissfully unaware of the more painful aspects of life, and all parents hope to maintain their children’s happy worlds for as long as possible. Unfortunately, there may come a time when a child needs to be made aware that someone close to them is seriously ill or has passed away. Kids should be provided with truthful information, but parents need to exercise caution when delivering especially troublesome news. Understanding the child’s maturity level and ability to process information can help parents to decide how to give the necessary information while doing their best not to unnecessarily frighten the child.

Family Matters

In close families, all news, both good and bad, tends to spread like wildfire. For this reason, it may be wise to call a family meeting to share news of a terminal diagnosis, allowing everyone to hear the news together and turn to one another for loving support. Typically, members of an immediate family are the first to find out that one of their own is facing an uncertain future, with extended family hearing the news a little at a time. While terminally ill patients may hesitate to share the news that they are ill with family members, hoping to spare their loved ones some worry and anxiety, those family members are often the very best sources of support, both emotional and hands-on help.

The Support of Friends

While most adults do not maintain a large circle of friends like they may have in their youth, most do have a few close friends who are likely to be held as dear as family. Friendship is one of life’s greatest blessings and true friends can make the process of dying less lonely and the feelings associated with illness and dying more manageable. Groups of friends often organise themselves into virtual armies of helping hands when one of the group is in need, and some terminally ill patients find that their friends are often even more helpful than family members in matters of daily tasks. Also, some patients feel more comfortable sharing their fears and anxieties with their closest friends, feeling that their family members are already overburdened with their own grieving processes.

Professional Relationships

Work relationships can range from casual to quite close, but in any case, terminally ill patients who are employees will at some point need to share the news of their illness with their employers. If the illness and associated treatments will interfere with work, the patient must confide in their supervisor in advance, if possible. In an ideal world, employers would always provide supportive environments for their ailing employees, but this is not always the case. Some patients hesitate in sharing news about illness sooner than they must because they fear that they will be viewed differently in the workplace. Of course, many people who are near the end of their lives hope to quit working altogether, instead focusing their remaining time on more pleasurable pursuits.

The awkwardness associated with delivering devastating news is hard to avoid, but in order for family members, friends, and associates to be able to deal with the illness and possible death of someone close, they must be made aware. If it makes it easier, patients can ask their doctor to deliver the news to the person closest to them and then ask that person to help them in informing everyone else. The dying process is certain to be emotionally trying for everyone involved, but if loved ones are able to help the terminally ill patient to spend their last weeks and months feeling supported and cared for, the time will have been well spent.

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