Talking About Death and Making End-of-Life Decisions

Updated on November 3, 2021

When someone you love develops a serious illness, it’s perfectly normal to go through an emotional experience similar to grieving. If the illness is terminal, it’s crucial that you talk with them about death and plan for the end of life. Things you might need to talk about include legal guardianship AZ, care requirements, and funeral arrangements.

Such conversations can be challenging for everyone involved. They can also be very painful. Thankfully, there are ways you can make it easier for both yourself and your loved one.

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Facing Terminal Illness

It can feel like time is standing still when you first learn someone you love has a life-threatening illness. You might cry, swing into action, or even try to push the news away. Whatever your reaction, time and life still have to go on, whether you feel ready to cope or not. 

You and your loved one may enjoy a brief respite, thanks to a promising treatment, but at some point, the illness may become terminal, and the end draw ever closer. 

There is a great deal you can do to support each other. Of course, emotional support is what you both need most of all. But some of the support will concern practical details such as end-of-life care and funeral plans. 

Dealing With Anticipatory Grief

People often feel anticipatory grief when they learn that someone they care about is seriously ill. Such feelings include grappling with and grieving a loss before it unfolds completely.

When someone is terminally ill, there are many losses to grieve. For example, there will be a change in their independence and security. In addition, they may experience impaired abilities. 

Family and friends may feel a range of different emotions, much the same as grief after a death. Things to you can do to help with these feelings include:

  • Talking with sympathetic family members or friends, especially those who have found themselves in similar situations.
  • Join a support group online or in person.
  • Read books or listen to tapes designed for caregivers. 

Making Time to Say Goodbye

A terminal illness is painful in so many ways, but it does offer you time to say “I love you,” share your appreciation and make amends when necessary. 

Sometimes, a dying person can hold on to life because they sense that others aren’t ready to let them go. Tell your loved one it’s all right to let go when they’re ready to do so. Letting them know you will be able to carry on may offer enormous relief. 

How to Talk About Death

Talking about death can be very difficult. You might think it’s a form of abandonment because it suggests you’re giving up on the lingering promise of a cure. However, people with terminal illnesses require different things. 

Some crave reassurance and are comforted by the thought that they will not be abandoned, no matter what happens.

Some people want to talk about it. They could be tired of putting up a good front and avoiding a topic that looms so large. 

There are also people who are afraid of what lies ahead and want empathy. Sharing such fears can help people feel less alone and overwhelmed.

Approaching the Difficult Conversation

Not everyone is ready to talk about death, even those who are terminally ill. Knowing when to speak and what to say can be confusing. Let’s take a quick look at some of the ways you can start such a conversation.

  • Look for openings: You might be able to open the door by talking about someone else’s illness and death, a song you hear, or a book you read.
  • Be gentle in your approach: Ask if there’s anything they want to talk about, whether you can help, or if there’s something they worry about.
  • Spiritual counsel: This might be the best approach for some people. Sometimes, even those who do not regularly attend religious services might turn toward their faith.
  • Professional advice: Learning about how physical symptoms might unfold or how pain will be handled can be valuable.  

The Practical Aspect of End-of-Life Planning

Practical matters aren’t always high on the list of priorities at such difficult times. However, it’s often easier to consider many of these issues before they become pressing. 

There are several advanced care directives, for example, that you should consider.

  • Living will: This sets forth medical wishes that guide health care if a person becomes physically or mentally unable to make decisions.
  • Health care power of attorney or health care proxy: This designates a person to act on an ill person’s behalf when necessary. 
  • Do-not-resuscitate order: This tells health care professionals not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation or defibrillation if the person’s heart stops beating.

Finding out that a loved one has a serious illness can be very distressing for all involved. Knowing what you can do to make things easier is bound to give you some kind of comfort at a time when you need it most.   

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.