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How to Talk to a Loved One Dying From Cancer

Talking about death with a mesothelioma cancer patient is extremely difficult, but is exceptionally important at the same time. Sharing the feelings of pain and sorrow along with future concerns can be really helpful for both the patient and the caregiver.

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Supportive adult kids and terminally ill dad in bed
Supportive adult kids and terminally ill dad in bed

Cancer is one of the major cause of death all around the world. It is expected that the number of new cancer cases will rise up to 23.6 million per year, by the year 2030.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 609,640 people died from cancer in America in the year 2018, and about 1735350 new cancer cases were registered.

Knowing all the basic fears and scary facts about cancer, surely it is exceedingly hard to believe, and accept that someone very dear to you is suffering from this life-threatening disease even showing very simple symptoms at the early stage.

Although several treatment options are operated on malignant mesothelioma patients in order to reduce the spread of cancerous cells. But in some cases, especially in the final stages of mesothelioma, the body stops responding to any type of treatment.

And this is the most critical stage for the cancer patient and everyone around him/ her to face the obvious fact of death.

Thinking about it seems immensely scary and difficult, let alone talking about death. As a friend, it surely is enormously difficult to see your friend feeble and weak, not able to walk properly, and respond actively.

The process of seeing someone in their declining health is definitely not easy. But, talking about it is inevitable.

Conversation About Dying is Really Helpful for Both You and the Patient

Of course, it is not easy to talk about it, but surely it’s really important. It requires courage and strength to be in this sort of conversation from both the patient and the carer.

But, it is highly advised by the people, as being honest and open about your fears, concerns, and remorse at this stage make the cancer patient relieved.

Indulging yourself in this conversation may feel challenging and impossible to you, but talking your heart with full honesty and sharing your fears and expectations will build a stronger bond between you two.

On the other hand, avoiding talking about death can create unnecessary tension, irritation, and that can detach you from having some memorable moments with the people you care about. And it will only elevate the sense of loneliness, excessive fear, and sadness for both of you.

So, it is really important to talk through death, and it out of your system. Eventually, you will experience more courage, strength and an unbreakable bond with your friend.

Mostly cancer patients, who know that their cancer is in the last stages and the treatments are not resulting successful, know that they are dying.

But they do not touch this subject out of fear that this will make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable, and won’t be able to talk about it.

Or in some cases, people intentionally become irritable, thus to avoid meeting their loved ones. And that makes it even harder to find middle grounds and let the conversation flow easily.

There is a hard and fast rule to bring up “death and how you are feeling about it” while talking. It seems very hard to think of sentences. And longer you’ll wait the harder it’ll become.

How Can You Start The Conversation

Basically, it’s all about telling someone that you are here for them, that you are sad too, that you and him/ her are sharing the sadness, and that the loss isn’t one-sided but two-sided. It’ll be beneficial for both of you. To start this particular conversation, be easy on yourself too, but be determined to get it started. Just say,

“I know things have become difficult, and hard, but I think if share our feelings with each other, it’ll be helpful”.

Sharing your concerns, and sorrow will help you two connect at a stronger level.

Make Them Feel Comfortable and Encourage to Open Up

The key is to make the patients easy and relaxed, so they feel comfortable before you to open up and being honest. Importantly, encourage them to speak their heart out, what’s going through in their mind.

And for that, you can use the following phrases,

  • How are you feeling today?
  • Do you want to share anything?
  • You might be feeling really emotional these days!
  • Is there anything in particular that worries you the most?
  • All this must be really difficult for you!
  • Do you often feel scared?
  • Is there something you want to talk about?
  • Is there anything specific that can help you feel relaxed?

Well, these are just simple sentences to get things started. Depending upon your relationship and frankness level, you can come up with something you think will make the patient at ease.

Things You Should Avoid Mentioning

It’s advisable not to say things like,

“I know exactly what you are going through”, “I’ve felt the same way before”, “Yeah, I’ can understand what you mean”.

Because, surely you must have been through difficult situations in life, but that can’t be compared with what a dying cancer patient is feeling in his/ her last days of life.

The obvious thing that’ll be running in his/ her mind would “You have all your life in hand, you aren’t dying”.

Another thing, do not try to give them any sort of advice. Just let the conversation flow the way they want it to flow.

Things that you think would be helpful for them, might not be suitable for cancer patients. And rather than making them feel light and relaxed, you might offend them deeply, unknowingly. Just try to be there for them in a casual manner.

Impossible Cases to Talk About Dying

Talking about death to all the cancer patients is not the same. The type of reactions and acceptance to a death varies from person to person. Mainly, it depends upon the personality of the cancer patient, your relationship, religious beliefs, and also age.

People who are introvert, have not accepted the results, or feel uncomfortable or distant around you will not be able to proceed with the conversation over death. While others would want to talk about it, who trust you, and would like to openly communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Talking about age, if the cancer patient is very young then it is surely kind of impossible and impractical to have such conversation with him/ her. Though the average age at which patients are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is 69, it can be diagnosed at the ages between 6 to 60 years, depending upon the asbestos exposure.

Moreover, in some cultures and religions, talking about death to someone ill is considered discouraging, that talking about death may bring it sooner.

Talking about dying with someone you trust is definitely easy, so make them feel comfortable.

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