When you find out your parent is suffering from a terminal illness, you may be overwhelmed emotionally. The impending loss can be hard to accept, but it's important to avoid letting your emotions get the best of you when your parent needs care and compassion. From helping your children cope to managing stress as you care for your parent, here are six coping tips to help you focus on providing much-needed care without losing sight of your own health.
1. Anticipating Grief
It's normal to feel anger, sorrow and depression after your parent's diagnosis. According to Harvard Health Publications, the best way to anticipate grief and cope with it is to seek out help. Talk about the situation with someone who has been through the same thing, whether a friend or family member or in a support-group setting.
2. Helping Kids Cope
No matter how old your children are, they'll need help coping with the impending death of a grandparent. Younger children may need to be reminded that death is final and their grandparent won't be coming back once they pass away. Cancer.net advises that one of the best ways to help kids cope is to keep making positive memories while your parent is still alive. If your parent is healthy enough for a trip, consider taking a family vacation. If your parent can't travel, schedule some at-home family gatherings.
3. Making Time to Say Goodbye
Unlike a sudden passing, a terminal-illness diagnosis means you'll have the opportunity to say goodbye properly. If you're holding on to anger, now is the time to make amends. Many families don't take the time to say "I love you" on a regular basis, and now is the best time to make sure your parent knows how much you care.
4. Learning About the Illness
Terminal illnesses can cause concerning physical and mental symptoms. While it'll be difficult to see your parent suffer, it's helpful to educate yourself beforehand so you know what to expect. Discuss the illness with your parent's medical provider to learn more about how their specific condition normally progresses. Not only will this allow you to prepare yourself emotionally, but it will also ensure you know whether a complication or symptom is expected.
5. Researching Hospice Care Options
When a person is terminally ill, hospice care allows the individual to stay in the comfort of home while receiving pain relief and care from a qualified nurse. While you may worry that it's out of the financial reach of your parent, Medicare and other healthcare policies typically offer coverage. Ascension Health reports that hospice care is an option that lets people remain as comfortable as possible as their family gathers to say goodbye.
6. Providing Emotional Support for Your Parent
You may be worried about how you'll handle your emotions when your parent is terminal, but remember that your parent needs emotional support, too. Even if your mom or dad is ready, dealing with a terminal illness and a definitive end is scary. Be willing to listen to your parent's concerns about death and make it a point to discuss his or her final wishes. Knowing that you're advocating for your parent will help him or her feel at peace with the situation.
The knowledge that your parent will soon pass away is difficult, but you can use the coping methods outlined above to handle your own grief while helping those you love.