How to support a loved one who is terminal

How to support a loved one who is terminal

When a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis, the news can be emotionally devastating and incredibly challenging to come to terms with. During this difficult time wrought with a variety of emotions on behalf of you and your loved one, you will need to be there for your loved one, offering your love and support now more than ever before. 

We have compiled a guide of tips and advice to help you navigate this difficult time and provide support for your loved one through their terminal illness. 

1. Offer Unconditional Love and Respect in Regards to Their Feelings and Desires

Coping with a terminal illness can be extremely difficult for your loved one as well as those who are close to them. While you are grieving too, coming to terms with the eventual loss of your loved one, you may feel that you want your desires to be known and considered. However, in order to emotionally be there for your loved one in this delicate time, it is better to put aside your desires and consider their interests first. Ask them how they would like to spend the rest of the time they have left, and simply be there for them without any judgement, and offering your unconditional love and support. 

2. Help Your Loved One Build and Accomplish Their Bucket List

A bucket list consists of the things you want to accomplish on your time on earth before you pass. As your loved one is coming to grips with their terminal illness, there is no better time than now to ask them about the things they still want to still do with their life. Maybe, they have passions left to explore or there is a special place or destination they always wanted to visit. Now may be the only time they will have to be able to accomplish these things, so talk openly together about how you can help them achieve and experience these personal, meaningful things in the time they have left. If your terminally ill loved one isn’t physically able to accomplish some of these activities due to the limitations of their sickness, perhaps you can set up a digital video experience for them so that they can still share in the activity and enjoy this special time. 

3. Reflect on and Create More Memories

Building off of creating a bucket list, even though your loved one is terminally ill, you can still focus on creating more special memories together. These memories will be incredibly  meaningful for your loved one and for you as well to to look back on and fondly remember your times together after your loved one is gone.

In addition to creating new memories in the time they have left, ask your loved one to tell you stories about their life and listen to them, giving them all your attention as you learn about these important times in their lives. Peruse through photo albums and laugh and cry as you share in their memories, and cherish this time together. 

4. Create their Life Story, Obituary and Lasting Legacy

Speaking of listening to your loved one’s life stories, now is the time to put together a lasting reminder of your loved ones’ memory. This will be incredibly meaningful for you and your surviving family members to look back on after your loved one is gone. An example of such a legacy would be an obituary which is a memorial tribute to your loved one that consists of their important, personal information, as well as their life highlights, special accomplishments and memories. You can also ask your loved one for photos and video clips that you can play in a tribute video at their funeral and continue to hold onto and cherish for years to come as a lasting legacy in their honor. Your loved one will deeply appreciate that you are taking the time to create these enduring reminders of their memory.

5. Openly Have Difficult, But Necessary Conversations

It is an unfortunate reality of the life of a terminally ill person, but now is also the time to have difficult, important conversations about how your loved one would like to handle their hospice care, as well as funeral services and memorialization. Listen openly to your loved one without judgement, and let them know that you are there for them and will help them through this time to arrange their hospice care, as well as funeral services and memorialization in adherence to their wishes. Now is also the time to talk to your loved one about thow they would like to handle their personal affairs and estate, etc. Knowing their affairs will be properly taken care of will provide a  sense of your comfort to your loved one. 

6. Take Care of Your Health and Well-Being

As you take this time to be there for your terminally ill loved one, it can be easy to get caught up in putting your loved one’s needs first to the point that you can begin to neglect your own. While your loved one needs you now more than ever, it is important that you still look after your own health and well-being, so you can fully be there and present for them to share in this time with them that they have left. 

7. Simply Be There & Spend Time Together

Again, time with your loved one is now limited. The most important thing you can do to support your loved one is simply being there for them, emotionally and physically.  Openly listen to them as they confide in you about their feelings, concerns and fears, and let them know you are there for them. It will be comforting for your loved one during this emotionally difficult time to know that you are dedicated to them and will be there for them no matter what. Spend time together and focus on enjoying this time you still have together continue creating new memories. Maybe, you can watch favorite tv shows or movies or share in special hobbies you and your loved one both enjoy. Savor this precious time together, offering your undivided attention to your loved one and make the most of this time that you have left together.  

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