Support and Strategy: Coping with a Terminally Ill Family Member

It can be one of the most challenging experiences in life – dealing with the anticipated passing of a family member. Whether it’s a parent, spouse or relative, the experience can be emotionally, mentally and physically taxing.

It affects you in multiple ways. There’s the “anticipatory grief,” a deeply felt sense of sadness for your upcoming loss. There are the cycles of intention and guilt that accompany trying to help your loved one, whether it’s caring for them or easing their fears. And there is the often-overwhelming feeling of managerial stress, as you figure out what to do with your loved one’s estate.

To cope with a terminally ill family member, you need to address each of these issues. In this article, let’s take a closer look at coping with these three issues, for your benefit and theirs.

Allow Yourself to Feel and Share Pain

“Anticipatory grief” is a natural response to an inevitable circumstance. The same way you get excited in the months leading up to a big vacation because you know the experience will be wonderful, the time leading up to a sad event will arouse feelings of sadness. It’s human, and it’s okay.

Allow yourself to feel sad. Putting on a brave face for those around only serves to delay and suppress your sadness, potentially making it worse. For obvious reasons, you may not want to express sadness in front of your terminally ill loved one, but you can find sympathetic ears in your family members and friends. Talk it out. Tell people how you’re feeling. If it doesn’t ease the pain, it will at least allow your pain a place to go – somewhere other than your own head.

Get All the Help You Can

Get All the Help You Can

Next, there is the matter of managing your loved one’s estate – decluttering items, sorting through possessions for items of personal and monetary value, and cleaning the house for sale. The physical and mental effort of these practical tasks can exacerbate your feelings of overwhelming stress and emotion. Therefore, you should call in all the help you can get.

Look into the estate cleanout services from NEATSPACES – their compassionate and patient team help you declutter, pack, and sort through items to keep, sell and donate. They respect and follow your direction, making sure everything is dealt with thoroughly and carefully.

Help Your Loved One Feel Supported, Dignified and in Control

You want to help, but you feel powerless. And the powerlessness you feel leads to guilt. It’s a repeating cycle that’s common for people with dying loved ones. The best thing you can do is de-center yourself.

The fact that you cannot help is not a failure on your part. The best you can do is be there for your loved one so that they feel supported. It’s also important to ensure they still feel in control. If you are making plans for their estate, (see above) allow them to have a voice in the process (if possible.) Knowing that they still have control over their legacy can be a much-needed salve in a distressing time.

Coping with the inevitability of a loved one’s passing isn’t easy. But by proactively addressing your pain, their support and your practical duties, you can make the process much easier.