Children & Grief Grief Life Transitions Loss Terminal Illness Uncategorized

Managing the Emotions of Terminal Illness

How Do I Manage The Emotions of My Terminal Illness?

Being informed you have either a chronic, or terminal illness is news nobody ever expects to hear. So, what happens when you’re suddenly faced with this life-altering information and you have to start managing the emotions of terminal illness?

Diagnosis of a terminal illness brings about a wide variety of emotions – whether you’re hit with them immediately, or you take some time to process them. Your priorities are suddenly shifted, and the amount of challenges you now face has doubled. 

However, hope certainly exists – even in the face of a terminal illness. 

While it might not seem possible, or even easy, keeping a positive  attitude and practicing peace can not only increase your quality of life in the time you have left, but can actually make the entire process easier for both you and your loved ones. 

So, how is this done? How can you practice hope and self-compassion while remaining self-aware during a serious medical diagnosis? Let’s talk about it. 

Your Emotions Post Diagnosis:

If you’ve just been told you have either a terminal illness or a chronic one, you may be surprised at the way you’re feeling. Some individuals are suddenly bombarded with hysteria, depression, and an overflow of tears. Some, on the other hand, feel quite ‘matter of fact’ about death and dying, to their own surprise. 

No matter how you’re handling the news, understand that each person’s journey is unique and there is no right or wrong way to feel

A few emotions you may be going through include:

  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Resentment 
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Denial 
  • Frustration 
  • Hopelessness
  • Relief
  • Acceptance

As time passes you may find you go through waves of different emotions. While at first, you may have felt in denial, after a few months you might come to accept what’s happening. 

Most people, unless they have an extremely high level of emotional regulation, will be unable to take it all in right away. Hearing you have a terminal illness can be quite surreal, so it’s important to show yourself love and accept the emotions you’re feeling no matter what they are. 

How To Cope With Your Emotions During a Terminal Illness:

Knowing that death is near can take a massive toll on your mental health, as well as your loved ones. This is why it’s incredibly important to learn how to cope with these emotions in order to make the time you have a positive experience. 

Healthily managing your emotions has been proven to influence acceptance levels, increase communication with loved ones, and create a balance of hope and honesty during an extremely difficult process. 

Here are a few ways to cope with the emotions of a terminal illness:

Educate Yourself On Fear:

While almost everyone is afraid of death it can help to pinpoint exactly what part of death you’re afraid of most. Do you wonder if it will hurt? Are you struggling with the unknown of what comes after? Is it the impact on your loved ones after you pass? Or perhaps it’s something else completely? For some of us it is physical, for some it is spiritual and for some it can rest in logistics or relationships or something entirely different.

Empowering yourself with education on exactly what you’re afraid of can help manage it. Fear can drive emotions such as depression, anxiety, and helplessness so taking time to face it head-on can diffuse such powerful feelings. 

Channel Your Anger:

It’s quite rare someone ever feels ‘ready to die. However, these feelings of resentment and anger toward our situation can lead us to take our negative emotions out on those closest to us. 

A terminal illness is unfair – and your feelings are completely valid! However, it’s not in your own best interest – or the interest of your loved ones – to spend your days angry at them. Try and find an outlet to release your anger directed at your disease, rather than at anyone person or thing in particular. 

Tackle Guilt and Regret as Quickly as Possible:

It’s very normal for a person nearing the end of life to feel immense regret about things they did or did not do. You may feel like you should have made different choices, said something you should have said, or taken a risk you should have taken. 

While this is common to feel, guilt and regret changes nothing. It’s unhelpful to think about the would have / should haves unless you have a time machine. 

Worrying about your past won’t relieve your burdens, in fact, it may make them much stronger. In this particular instance, it’s extremely helpful to allow yourself a ‘free pass. Guilt and shame have no place in your end-of-life care, and it must stay that way. 

Nurture Your Grief:

One of the scariest emotions you may be feeling is the immense grief that comes along with a terminal illness. You may be grieving the loss of a life you had planned, grieving your children or significant other before you’re even gone, or you may be grieving the physical functions you no longer have. 

Many, many emotional losses come before the loss of life itself so it’s important to take time to nurture that grief. Instead of isolating yourself from others and choosing to deal with grief on your own, talk to someone. 

A friend, a partner, or even your medical team. It may take a few times, but talking about your grievances will help alleviate the burden they cause. 

How To Maintain Self-Awareness During The End of Life:

While it’s likely you have a team of medical professionals by your side day and night, you’re the only one who knows exactly what you’re feeling at exactly the time you feel it. 

While the thought of your final days can feel overwhelming, it may make it easier to understand what that process may look like. Knowing what to expect can make it less frightening and more prepared.

There are a few conditions to look out for in order to maintain a more positive level of self-awareness during this time. 

  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Decreased appetite and thirst
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Delirium 
  • Restlessness
  • Seeing loved ones that have passed
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Skin mottling 

While each person’s death will look different, being on the lookout for these can help you become more aware when death may be near. This can give you time to say goodbye to your loved ones, and have those you care about around you when you pass. 

Dying Is a Natural Process:

Everyone will die eventually. If you’re an individual with a terminal illness it just may be that your time has come sooner than others. Once you accept you have limited time left you can begin spending your final days, weeks, or years living each and every day with meaning and fulfillment. 

It’s common for terminally ill patients to feel as though they’re a burden and to begin to isolate themselves from loved ones. But I want to reassure you this is certainly not the case. In most circumstances, loved ones simply don’t know what to say or how to act, so it’s up to you to keep communication open with them about the way you’re feeling. And yes, there are counselors who specialize in helping people and their families through this transition.

Whether you feel denial, anger, shock, sadness, grief, or acceptance it’s all normal. The sooner you can embrace your emotions, the sooner you can make your time count. 



Faced with Major Life Transitions? – How to Embrace the Change

Major life transitions happen to almost everyone at some point. Often, these transitions can leave you feeling as though you don’t know what to do. After all, change isn’t always easy and can cause some speedbumps in your life.

Thankfully, by embracing these transitions, you can get through them smoothly. Coping with big changes isn’t impossible. Actually, embracing change doesn’t always require a lot of effort.

What it does require is the ability to use both emotional and physical energy to adapt to your new situation(s). If you’re willing to do that, it’s easier to move forward with your life quickly.

Whether major life transitions are planned or unplanned, positive or negative, embracing the change will make a big difference in how you handle it.

If you’re struggling, keep these tips in mind to adapt.

Be Present

When we’re presented with new, big life changes, our minds often go to the future.

It’s normal to wonder what your future holds, how things will be different, what to expect, etc. Even if it’s a good change, these thoughts and feelings can quickly become overwhelming.

One way to avoid getting overly-stressed about such things is to be “in the now” as much as possible. Take things one step at a time by accepting each element of the transition as it comes.

Lamenting about the past or worrying about the future won’t get you anywhere. It will likely make you feel even more stressed out, robbing you of time and energy.

By being present within those changes, you can focus your energy on what’s happening, and learn to appreciate it more.

Understand the Importance of Change

Change is natural and necessary throughout life. Some changes are for the better, and some can be a struggle. Some changes are even painful. But, it’s important to understand that without these major life transitions, we would never grow and learn.

Transitions help us to become stronger. They allow us to be prepared for the next big change to come along, and the one after that, etc.

The more you go through, the better prepared you’ll be. And, the less negative change will be able to overwhelm you.

So, while embracing major life transitions and changes (especially difficult ones) isn’t always easy, you can look at it as a sign of growth. The next time you face a life transition, you’ll have wisdom and experience on your side.

Take Care of Yourself

One of the best things you can do when you’re going through major life transitions is to practice self-care.

Find time to relax, and do some things that you enjoy.

If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the changes, don’t be afraid to try something new in an effort to “de-stress.” Many people benefit from things like meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Self-care is also about taking care of yourself physically. Be sure to eat a sensible diet, and exercise. Something as simple as a leisurely walk can make a big difference in how you feel.

Make sure whatever you choose to do physically is something you enjoy, and not something that becomes a chore.

Change is inevitable throughout life. The more you’re able to embrace these transitions, the better you will be. But, you don’t have to do it alone.

If you’re struggling with a major life transition, be sure to talk to someone about it. Having a support system can make the transition easier.

A therapist can also be part of your support system. Please contact me today for help in managing a major life transition. Or, visit hereto learn more about how I can help.

Life Transitions

Life Transitions

Going through life transitions with a professional therapist

Are you currently going through a tough time? Or, do you feel OK, but suspect talking with a therapist could be exactly what’s needed to generate positive momentum toward attaining your dreams? Well, that why we are here.

Let’s face it, Change is a regular part of our daily life whether it is moving to new city, caregiver stress, single parenting, adult returning to school, or a new co-worker joining the company, a family member getting married, or a new activity we incorporate into our life. There are times however, where change is the result of a major life transition and our ability to adapt to the new environment is beyond our skill level. Life transitions can make us question our life purpose, identities, life goals and direction and together we can explore these thoughts and feelings and begin to make sense out of what may seem a confusing time.


Often when faced with a change we look for ways to incorporate this into the life we are leading. In the case of a major life transition, Values-Based counseling helps us to determine how the life we are leading will adapt to this core shift. This can cause questions for people as to who they are and how they identify themselves. In the situation of children moving out of the family home, although you will always remain a parent, your immediate circle of influence has shifted. Making sure there are nutritious meals that your children are home safe each night, and being there on a daily basis to encourage them has shifted. You may now be faced with a lot of idle time to fill, and the voids that are left may leave you feeling helpless, or unproductive. Your counselor is here to help identify these issues and the other adjustment issues as you move forward through the many life transitions that help to create the person we are today.

Counseling offers individuals or families a process to work through what this life change means
We understand how challenging life and relationships can be. We have accumulated, and grown from both clinical training and personal life experiences. These lessons contribute to our understanding and empathy, and we are passionate about helping others. We understand if you’re reluctant to try counseling or to take the first step and contact someone about help but going to counseling is an acknowledgment that you want things to change. You want your life to be better! It’s a sign of strength that you are considering counseling, and we encourage you to take that next step. Research suggests the biggest predictor of positive client outcomes is the relationship between the client and the counselor – so make sure you find the right professional for you.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.