Coping with a Terminal Illness

person sitting with legs crossed

There is no right or wrong way to react to the news of your diagnosis with a terminal disease. And everyone will handle their news differently. You will probably feel a range of emotions as times passes, and it’s important to know that it is okay.

Some of these emotions might include:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Resentment
  • Sadness
  • Helplessness
  • Frustration
  • Relief
  • Acceptance

This is not an easy thing that you have to deal with, but there are ways to make your burden feel a little lighter, or at least to help you appreciate the little things.

You are not alone.

Knowing that you are not alone in this can be a tremendous burden lifted. Dealing with a terminal illness can make anyone feel alone and isolated, and it’s okay to be alone sometimes, but it’s just as important to surround yourself with those you love. Find trusted friends and family members who you can talk to about your feelings – your fears, your hopes, your dreams. You might find that simply talking it out with a loved one can help you feel better.

On the other side of that coin, there are support groups available for people with terminal illnesses and their families. Find a group online or in your local community to talk to others who are in your situation, who really understand what you are going through. This can help you to truly feel like and be yourself because they get it too. Places like the Teton Cancer Institute or your local hospital can direct you to local support groups.

Take one step at a time.

There is a lot to think about and take care of when you find out you have a terminal illness, such as the care you will need, how to tell friends and family, and more. But don’t worry about doing all of it at once. Take one step at a time.

Set small, achievable goals for yourself – maybe even have a family member help with this – and help relieve that burden from yourself. Maybe one day you call a friend and the next you visit with a family member. Whatever you need to do, don’t stress yourself by trying to do it all at once. Ask others for help, and take it one day at a time. Focus on the present day and its goals, and work from there.

Write in a journal.

You might have a lot of thoughts and feelings that are overwhelming you. Maybe you don’t want to tell them to anyone. Try writing everything you feel in a journal. Sometimes writing down our thoughts is helpful just to clear our minds and lessen that overwhelming stress that can take over in times over trauma. Write your feelings down, everything good or bad.

As each day goes on, you might consider writing about your different experiences or the things that you are grateful for each day. Maybe you choose to write a blog for others to read and understand you better, or for others who are in a similar situation to feel less alone. Whatever you do, write for you.

Take care of yourself.

I don’t just mean the day to day mundane act of caring for yourself, but think about the things that you truly enjoy and do them. Find activities that relieve stress, like getting a massage, sitting in a hot tub, reading a book.

Let family and friends help you when they offer. Maybe they want to bring you a meal or take you shopping. Use that time to bond with them and to do some of the things that you enjoy doing together.

Everyone is different and will deal with their diagnosis in a way that is best for them. Try some different stress relieving techniques, do things that you enjoy, express your feelings (whether in writing, artwork, or verbally), and find ways to enjoy the little things each day.

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