‘I’m sorry – there’s little else we can do’
Spoken by the medical profession, these are words that can shatter the lives of families who have been hoping against hope that treatment would cure or slow the progress of a life-threatening illness. Already emotionally scarred and physically tired by the roller-coaster ride of alternating hope and despair, this news brings with it a whole new and difficult set of circumstances to cope with and adjust to.
The way we get through this most harrowing of experiences will differ for everyone depending on a whole range of factors. These will include who it is who is ill, the family relationships involved, individual needs and personalities, and practical issues relevant to the particular illness. Faith can play a vital part in the way we cope – but issues of mortality can also challenge faith like nothing else.
Because of all these factors, if we are facing this journey we must plot our own way through the storm. There are however some ‘signposts’ that might help to point the way.
However hard it may seem, families going through the experience of having a loved one with a terminal illness do get through. Yes, there will be very difficult days with much pain and heartbreak, and perhaps many questions that there are no answers to, but as an old verse says: ‘There is a time to be born and a time to die.’ For some that time will be much earlier than had been hoped. The same verse says that there will be times to weep and mourn and times to laugh and dance. Although for a time the family that is left may be consumed by weeping and mourning, there can be hope that one day you can rebuild your lives – and even dare to dream that one day you can laugh again.
The BBC has put together some helpful information for families coping with a terminal illness. It also has good links to charities and other organisations that offer support. The local hospice may be able to help as well. Further information and how to find the nearest hospice can be found at the Help the Hospices website. Another website that provides good information (particularly from a practical point of view) is Dying Matters.