Terminal Illnesses and Grief

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, May 8, 2023

When a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can be hard to process your grief and be there for them. Often, family and friends can be an important support network for the sick individual. But grief can become a hurdle that you and the sick individual both have to handle. This article will look at grief support options for both the terminally ill, and their family.

Grief When Fighting a Terminal Illness

Grief when facing one’s mortality can be a heavy burden to bear. It can be hard to stay strong, or be positive, the whole time. Many treatments for terminal diseases, especially those like cancer, can make it difficult to see the bright side of things.

Facing Your Mortality

It can be morbid to face your own mortality. It is why many people put off writing a Will or pre-planning their funeral. Overall, these can be very difficult to handle, but they are incredibly important. As you continue to live with your terminal illness, you may have to face your mortality every day. For some people, this doesn’t get easier. And that is OK. For others, it becomes a new normal. This is also OK. However you choose to process this, it is important to be strong.

Long-Term Grief

When fighting cancer or other terminal illnesses, your grief can last a long time. Long-term grief is usually common for the length of your fight. Moreso, it can be hard to truly know your life expectancy given your medical situation. While your doctors can give you an approximate window, it may not be certain. Roughly two-thirds of cancer patients have a five-year survival rate. Additionally, your treatment may be successful in fighting off the illness. Just try to take everything one step at a time, and seek support when needed.

Finding Support

It can be helpful to seek support for your grief through your friends and family. Unfortunately, these people are also feeling similar grief from your situation. This can be hard because sometimes grieving as a family can make things more difficult. Don’t be afraid to seek grief help from a different source. Grief counselors or therapists can help you walk through your feelings and help you deal with long-term grief. There are also plenty of support groups, both online and in-person, for people living with terminal diseases. Finding a place where you feel supported can be an important step in dealing with your grief.

Family Grief

As mentioned before, many of your friends and family will be there with you, facing your mortality with you. While their grief is not the same as yours, they are still experiencing difficult and complex emotions too. To some people, their grief can seem selfish. The important thing to understand is that it comes from a place of love. It may be difficult, but try not to feel guilty that they are feeling this grief. It can often seem like you are “putting your family through this,” but you aren’t. You are fighting for your life, do not blame yourself for how they handle your fight. 

When Your Loved One is Living a With Terminal Illness

Watching your loved one fight for their life against a terminal illness can be devastating. You and your loved ones may feel like you are consumed by grief, but it is also important to be there for your sick loved one. This section of the article will discuss ways you can support your loved one, and how you can work through your own grief.

Supporting Your Loved One’s Fight

Being there for your loved one throughout their struggle can be a big part of this process. While it can be hard to process your own feelings of grief, please be aware that they are feeling the full brunt of facing their own mortality. On top of that, most treatments for terminal illnesses are not easy. The physical, mental, and emotional strain that your loved one is going through is intense. Understanding your loved one’s struggle, and the emotional turmoil that they are enduring can help you be there for them when they need somebody to lean on.

Finding Support

Friends and family members often have to be strong for each other, as well as their terminally ill loved one. It is ok to be vulnerable or ask for help from those around you when you are struggling with your grief. There are a number of in-person and online support groups for families of terminally ill individuals. For further grief support and help, speak with a therapist or grief counselor.

One thing to note is to try not to lean on your terminally ill loved one for grief support during this time. They have enough on their plate, including their own feelings of grief. In some cases, they may feel responsible for your grief and emotional anguish. It is better to try to support them, and seek your own emotional assistance from others. Seeking help elsewhere can reduce the burden of grief off of your loved one so that they can focus more on their own fight.

The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For assistance in finding a grief counselor that is right for you, there are a number of resources out there. For our Grief Resource center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

Leave a comment
Please enter the numbers and letters you see in the image. Note that the case of the letters entered matters.


Please wait

Previous Posts

Preplanning: Taking Charge of Your Own Funeral

There are many reasons to preplan your funeral, from mitigating costs to making your funeral easier for your loved ones upon your passing. But one important aspect of preplanning your funeral is es...

When is Grief Good?

Grief can make us feel like a great weight rests on our shoulders. Grieving can be a challenging, and often overwhelming, experience. Although grief is brought upon us by loss and sorrow, is it tru...

Grieving Pets

When a loved one passes, every member of the family is affected, even your pets. Dogs, cats, and other family pets can experience grief and can even mourn for a loved one. Below, we will discuss gr...

Grief and Dealing With Suicide

When faced with the loss of a loved one, the grief can be devastating. But when a loved one takes their own life, the grief that families feel afterward can often be complicated. According to the A...

Sunlight and Combatting Grief

As the weather gets warmer and summer is on the horizon, it is time for many people to schedule vacations and weekend outings. For people dealing with grief and depression, it may seem difficult to...

Grief and Selfishness

Grief is a complex emotional state. For many people, grief can bring out different sides of us. And while grief is not an excuse to act out, or be a bad person, it can often be a defense mechanism....

The First Mother's Day Without Her

Mother’s Day is a time we celebrate those who devoted their lives to caring for us, and for bringing us into the world. But it can also be a solemn reminder after the passing of your mother. The lo...

Can I be Both Cremated and Buried?

While most people assume you have to choose between burial or cremation at the end of life, there are more options available. One is to choose both. You can choose burial and cremation together. Be...

Retiring In Stages

Retiring at 65 has been a common aspect of the American lifestyle for generations, but full retirement at that age may not be in the cards for everyone. With costs of living consistently on the ris...

Funeral Planning for the LGBTQ+ Community

When it comes to end-of-life services, it is important to have a plan in order. This can be especially true for many LGBTQ+ people. In the event of your passing, your wishes should be upheld for yo...