Finding out a family member or a close friend is suffering from a terminal illness is absolutely devastating. And supporting that person through the difficult journey ahead is one of the hardest things you can face in life. Whilst unfortunately medicine has not yet provided a cure for these illnesses, there are some things you can do to make the experience a little bit easier for you and your loved one.
Though your instinct might be to be at your loved one’s side 24/7, this is not realistic or healthy for you. Being strong and supportive (both practically and emotionally) for a terminally ill loved one takes an extraordinary amount of energy. You therefore need to make sure that you are getting plenty of rest and have a chance to take a break from things regularly.
Though it will go against your gut instinct and will make you feel as though you are being selfish, setting boundaries and realistic expectations as to what you are able to give your loved one is essential to your survival. Think of it like wearing an oxygen mask on a plane. How can you possibly help anyone else if you’ve cut off your own oxygen supply?
Watching a loved one suffering and getting increasingly sick is not easy. It’s physically and emotionally draining and it’s bound to make you resentful, exhausted and just plain cranky at times. So whilst of course you want to try and keep your cool and be as supportive and as loving as possible, don’t beat yourself up if you snap once in a while. What you’re going through is horrendous so you can forgive yourself for having the odd negative thought or for wanting to run away every now and again. It’s normal. It’s natural. Forgive yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with the knowledge that you are going to die soon. Some people see it as an opportunity to tick off their bucket list whilst others retreat into deep depression. Some might wish to meticulously plan every detail of their funeral whilst others simply can’t even think about it.
Although a terminal illness is difficult to witness, it does afford you the luxury of being able to plan ahead. And whilst you might think that you don’t have the time or the emotional strength to start making funeral plans whilst your loved one is still with us, you’re far less likely to have the emotional strength to do so once they’ve passed.
Give yourself a bit of breathing space by planning whatever you can ahead of time. This doesn’t have to mean planning out every detail, but you can start researching funeral directors and thinking about what kind of funeral you and your loved one would want. Many companies like Olsens Funerals have lots of online resources that can help you navigate this difficult time and organise something that your loved one would be proud of.
Ask For Help
Whether it’s speaking to a therapist, venting to your friends over a glass of wine or getting nursing staff to visit periodically, there are plenty of ways you can get support during this difficult time.
Although you might feel as though it’s your duty to do everything yourself (especially if your loved one is a close relative or a partner), you should allow others to help you whenever possible. And remember, though you may not want to inconvenience your friends by asking for their help, they’re probably desperate to be able to assist. Many people find being on the sidelines and not being able to offer any practical support extremely difficult, so whilst you might think that asking them to pick up some medicine for you is annoying, they may actually be thrilled to be able to help you out.
There’s no easy way to get through this type of situation. And even with all the assistance and helpful tips in the world, it’s still going to be immensely painful. But with a little bit of self preservation and forward planning, you can make the load just a little bit lighter for you and your loved one.