Print There is no right or wrong way to feel when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness or receive bad news. It can be a frightening experience.
The emotions you experience are usually associated with grief. Grief is a normal response that follows a significant change or loss which may affect someone’s life. Grief is a process of coming to terms with what has changed in life. There is no right or wrong way to go through this adjustment.
How people cope is an individual experience.
As the time passes, the emotions you experience may change. There is no timeline on how long you will experience any emotion.
You may experience intense thoughts and feelings such as sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, disbelief, panic, relief, shame and nostalgia. You might not experience all of these feelings, and if you do, they will not necessarily come in any particular order. Whatever you feel ,you do not have to go through it alone.
Some people are open and expressive with their grief, for example crying, and wanting to talk, while others are more private, and may be reluctant to talk.
Grief can include both physical and emotional distress. Signs of distress can include:
* crying and sadness (or a reluctance to cry)
* feeling numb
* difficulty sleeping and having nightmares
* constantly feeling tired and depressed
* changes to eating habits
* difficulty concentrating and making decisions
* feeling tense, sick and having difficulty breathing
* losing interest in family, friends and hobbies
* disorientation and confusion.
You may be able to deal with your emotions with the help of family and friends, or you may need some extra support. There are many organisations that can help you understand and cope with grief and loss.
For some people, the feeling that they are not able to cope with their situation does not go away and they feel too low to be able to do things they need, want or enjoy doing. If this happens to you and these feelings persist, it may be helpful to talk to your healthcare team. Medicine often helps and counselling or therapy can make a difference.
Your healthcare team can help with accessing a social workers, psychologist, spiritual advisor or support group. Your general practitioner will also be able to refer you to an appropriate service.
Find more information about:
PalAssist is a free Queensland telephone and online service specifically for palliative care patients, carers, family and friends seeking practical information and emotional support.
The service is operated by a team of health professionals with nursing, social work and counselling experience who provide referral advice and support.
Call (from 7am to 7pm, 7 days), chat online, or search for palliative care services in your area.
Talking to children about terminal illness and death
Adults often feel the need to protect children from death. They may feel children will not understand or become upset. We can underestimate children’s ability to cope. They may be more frightened by imagined events if they are not told what is happening.
Children should be given the facts in a simple manner. Give them time to ask questions (which may be very direct) and offer plenty of reassurance.
It is helpful for adults to share their feelings with children as this shows it is normal to feel sad when someone is terminally ill or has died.
A grieving child may act out so look for changes in behaviour and if the child is at school, make sure the teacher is aware of the situation.
Learn more about children’s grief and loss or speak with your healthcare providers for more information.