3 MIN READ | Health Psychology

Dennis Relojo-Howell

How to Cope with a Terminal Illness Diagnosis

Cite This
Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2021, March 29). How to Cope with a Terminal Illness Diagnosis. Psychreg on Health Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/how-to-cope-terminal-illness-diagnosis/
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When you receive a terminal diagnosis, it is easy to fall into depression. The realisation that the end of your life is imminent can feel impossible to comprehend. For some, they are okay with the fact their life is ending, but they can’t bear the thought of leaving their loved ones behind. There is no right way to being told you have a disease that’s going to end your life, but there are certain steps you can take that will help you cope better and make the most of the time you have left.

Talk to your doctor

You should always seek a second medical opinion, and it’s important to explore any and all treatment options. Even if your condition can’t be completely cured, there are many advanced forms of therapy that may extend your life expectancy by years. Discussing your thoughts and feelings with your doctor are also important; voicing your fears, worries and even desire to explore further treatment can help you gain a better perspective on your condition.

Don’t feel pressured to tell everyone

If you have children, especially young ones, you may not want to let them know about your diagnosis right away. Depending on your life expectancy, it could be better for both you and them to keep things as normal as possible and fully enjoy everything you can together. If you aren’t sure how to let your loved ones know, that’s okay. Tell your closest loved one and have them come with you, or work with a therapist to discuss the best approach.

Everyone’s timeline, needs and communication desires are different. It’s okay to need time to break the news, but you should also avoid delaying it to the point someone feels completely blindsided by your passing. As difficult as it is to voice your diagnosis, awareness can create space for more support, love and openness for you and your loved ones.

Get your affairs in order as soon as possible

Although it’s one of the most painful things to do, it’s a good idea to address your will, life insurance and any other end-of-life plans as soon as possible. You don’t know how your health might change in the future, and it’s better to address all of these things while you’re still able to do so. An end-of-life checklist instructs your family how you want medical decisions and finances to be managed if you are ever unable to make them on your own. This will ensure your wishes are followed and gives you greater peace of mind.

Focus on your perspective

Although there may not be hope for a cure, there are still things you can do to make the most of what you have left. These include:

  • Practicing mindfulness to truly embrace the present.
  • Learning how to accept and make peace with all the difficult and painful emotions you’re experiencing.
  • Keeping up a healthy routine and sense of stability.
  • Doing things that you love as often as you can; you’re not just a dying person but a living being who is dying sooner than they expected.
  • Talk to your loved ones. Pain and fear cause many people with withdrawal, but avoid letting fear and discomfort distance you from people you care about.

It’s also okay to need time alone to process what’s going on. You may be filled with a sudden sense of anxiety to get everything done, but this is a process. There are some things you will simply have to let go; there are others you will be able to bid farewell to and move forward from. Working with a therapist and even including your family in the process can be helpful during the early stages of adjustment.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.

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