Ways To Cope With The Fact That You Are Dying
Receiving the news that no-one wants to hear will send your world into freefall. Your emotions begin a rollercoaster ride all of their own whilst your rational brain tries to understand what's happening. It is quite common to spend a period of time in denial – "they're wrong", "I want a second opinion" – pretending that it simply isn't happening. Being angry is another very normal reaction, "...why me?"
Dying is something humanity shares, it is coming to us all but just at different times. Feeling a kaleidoscope of emotions is perfectly normal and your response is being mirrored across the world by thousands of other people. Your mind may flit from an emotional response to practical concerns such as worrying about your family and everyday tasks. There will be close family that you need to tell. You are not alone. Not only are many others standing where you are now but there is help available. Qualified, professional support is out there from people who are experienced in this situation. Or it can be as simple as a cup of tea and a chat with a close friend.
Stop all the clocks
Initially, your emotional response will be very varied and fluctuate hugely from day to day. Try and go with the flow. Your rational brain can understand the factual message you have been given but to really comprehend what this means is hard. Diagnosis of a terminal illness is rather like the range of emotions experienced during grief, it's just that the bereavement hasn't happened yet.
Fear is a very common and very real response, fear of the unknown. Human beings operate on two levels, the rational and practical and, the emotional, spiritual and psychological. Recognising and accepting something rationally is completely different from coming to terms with it on an emotional level. It takes time.
Telling other people
Telling other people you are dying can be challenging but also a huge relief. Once you have told close family, then they may be able to tell other people for you. Sharing the news can actually be a huge relief, after all, a problem shared is a problem halved. It is important to seek support. That might be talking to a third party you have no emotional connection with or a close friend or family member. There are no rules.
Who you want to speak to and whether you want to talk about it at all will vary from day to day. Everyone will respond to you differently and sometimes silence can be the easiest option. If you have received a terminal diagnosis, you might feel that constantly seeking support from your close family is placing a burden on them. Some people feel more comfortable talking to a neutral third party like Marie Cure. They offer all types of help and support to people who are dying. Sometimes it can be easier to discuss personal detail with them, like what happens at the end, than someone you are close to.
Being a burden
Some people have a natural response to protect their close friends and family. Don't make the mistake of trying to cope with everything on your own. As well as concerns about daily living and medical support, there will be practical things you need to put in place too. This is before you consider the emotional impact of your situation. Seek support from carers because that allows you to spend more quality time with your close family.
- Research your illness alongside help from your GP and specialist healthcare professionals – information will help you plan effectively for your final days and weeks
- Discuss an end-of-life care plan with your family and medical team
- If you haven't already done so then write a will. If your will is old then check it and revise if necessary. Many people focus on the gift of personal items to specific individuals
- Plan your funeral arrangements. This can make it so much easier for your family after you have gone. If you have sufficient time, consider taking out a funeral plan as this will lessen the financial burden for your loved ones
- Some people create memory boards or storyboards for their children, capturing precious moments from family times. This can include personal thoughts and hopes for their future lives and will be the most treasured of gifts after you have gone
- There are online platforms now like Bequest which can store your practical details and wishes and act as a reference point for family after your death
Making practical arrangements is both important and sensible but remember to enjoy the time you have left with your family. For close family members, this will be some of the most precious time they spend with you.
Some people write a bucket list but don't try and do everything at once, prioritise. Some of the simplest and least expensive things are often the most enjoyable. Be realistic, your health condition may rule out exotic foreign travel or jumping out of aeroplanes. Just choose things that mean something to you. It could be as simple as going for a walk in a special place with your loved ones. Don't feel pressurised to organise complicated and expensive trips or events. Most people find that some of the simplest things are the best, less pressuring, more relaxing and the ultimate way to spend quality time with loved ones.
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