FOR THE BEREAVED: Dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis

By the time we hit middle age, many of us know friends or family members that have been blindsided by a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.

By the time we hit middle age, many of us know friends or family members that have been blindsided by a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.

It prompts a thought process. Who will be there for me? Who will walk beside me while I’m scared, in pain and navigating strange waters?

The sad truth is, many times the person who is diagnosed ends up finding out that the people they thought were on the support wagon, simply missed the train.

No phone calls or visits, it’s like everyone went underground. This is a very lonely and frightening time for most – your life is put on hold, while everyone else goes about daily routines.

The need to connect and be nurtured comes to the forefront. After all, when we are sick, don’t we all want our mom?  Or someone to just say, “We’re walking with you and I’ll be here for you?”

If you have someone in your life that has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, call them. It might be an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, but call.

The thing is, that person is most likely at home, wondering what on earth has happened to their life.

They may have a certain amount of fear and anxiety. You don’t have to be a counsellor to be kind.

Make some food in freezer packages and deliver them.

Your friend may not have the energy to cook nutritious meals for themselves and a homemade dinner would fill the bill.

Just do what you know is right and what you would like someone to do for you.

Your friend that has been diagnosed may have some personality changes as they move through treatment.

This is not a time to be judgmental. You are there to lift them up, support them when they are weak and be their strength when they need firm direction.

Your friend may change in appearance, and be very self-conscious.  Remind your friend gently that this will pass.

There is always the chance in a life-threatening illness things won’t go “back to normal,” and your friend may lose the battle and not survive.

This brings you into another realm of caregiving as a friend. Local clergy are a huge asset and are trained to help us with these most difficult times in life.

Talk about spirituality with your friend. Most of us believe something and when we talk about it often, it becomes a topic of peace and serenity.  Not something fear-based that takes all the positive energy from the time left on this earth.

Don’t be afraid to say what you need to – it might make you all cry, and for a moment bring the sadness to the surface but these things need to be said and heard so that healing can eventually begin.

Phrases like “I love you,” “I’ll miss you,” “Your friendship means so much to me,” “I’m so glad we had this time with each other,” and “My life is richer for you being in it.”

You get the picture; just say what’s in your heart and your friend will feel your love.

Barbara Bleiler is a certified funeral celebrant and advertising rep for the Grand Forks Gazette.

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