By: Peg Carmany
When someone you love is diagnosed with a life limiting illness, it may be a time when the kaleidoscope of your life suddenly snaps into focus. Or it may be a time when the laser focus of your life becomes scattered. And very likely, there will be some of both. Of the research I have done, and the practical tips I can share from my own experience, these are my favorite pieces of advice:
1. Remember there is no right answer on how you’re supposed to act, and you should not assume that you are supposed to know exactly what to do and exactly how to act. It’s OK to fall apart, but one word of caution about that: try not to let the person who is ill be your primary source of comfort when you do hit a wall.
2. When trying to follow Tip 1, remember that your established role with this loved one doesn’t necessarily switch at the moment of diagnosis. Perhaps only one of you has ever been good under stress? It’s okay to keep it that way. Both of you may take great comfort in continuing on with familiar patterns.
3. Make it a priority to show your love as your loved one is facing what may be overwhelming and scary. It’s not all roses and chocolates – be authentic, be honest, and be yourself. Express gratitude to them for how they have positively impacted your life – and share happy memories – and don’t be afraid to say goodbye, tenderly.
4. Respect their authority to make their own decisions, whether you like it or not. These are their choices, not yours.
5. Keep things as normal as possible. Continue watching your favorite tv shows together or listening to their favorite music, it can be a very meaningful thing.
6. Laugh when you can, and don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at the whole situation. A sense of humor will lighten any mood!
7. And perhaps most importantly: listen, and give advice only when asked. This one can be the most challenging. Often, we are great talkers, but not the best listeners.
Remember, your loved one needs your emotional support. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often family and friends who live near by are more than willing to help with errands. And, if you need further support, Wesley Hospice can visit your home, the community you live in, and even hospitals.
We send our deepest condolences to the families who are faced with a loved one being diagnosed with a life limiting illness. And, we hope that with these tips you’ll be able to better love your loved one during this time.