The worst-case scenario: you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Even if you don’t know how long you have left to spend with the people you care about, coping with the news of mortality is never easy. Despite how difficult this conversation may be, it has to happen. How do you cope with a terminal illness?

Coping With the News

Chances are you’ll feel a variety of emotions: shock, rage, fear, helplessness, frustration, even relief or acceptance. All of these feelings are valid—there is no wrong way to feel when getting life-changing news. You may go through several stages of emotion as well, and if your feelings fluctuate over a couple of hours, days, weeks, or months, that’s okay!

When you get your diagnosis, most doctors will provide resources on specialized therapists and counselors who can help you and your loved ones work through your diagnosis. These people can also help equip you with skills to help manage any new, intense emotions you may feel, potentially destructive impulses, and how to comfortably communicate your condition and feelings to loved ones.

Who Do I Tell, and What Do I Say?

The choice of who to tell is entirely the one diagnosed. If you’re the one with a terminal illness, you have every right to tell whomever you feel should know. People you are closest to are the typical go-to, but how do you tell them?

With a serious topic, chances are the people you tell will like to know more about what you’re going through and your illness. You can prepare for this with research, or you can tell them you don’t feel comfortable with sharing any extra, personal information. If you need, consider consulting a therapist or your doctor for consolation as well.

How Loved ones Can Help

The best way a loved one can help is up to you, just be sure to ask for help when you need it.

As for loved ones, be there to listen. Support is the best kind of help you can give, whether emotional, financial, or physical. Remember to be aware that your relationship may change with your diagnosed loved one, and remember to play on the strengths of your relationship to help support them. Remember to take things in strides. There is no “right way” your loved one has to feel about their diagnosis.

Moving Forward

Moving forward, things will be different. They may not be as different or as the same as you’ll expect, but coping with this kind of news is never easy. What’s more, is that everyone copes differently. Always be aware of your needs and to be gentle with your feelings, and remember you are not alone, you are loved, and that you are important.


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