Counseling for Terminal Illness
Despite its inevitability, most people choose not to think about death until the time comes to face it head on, and would prefer to bow out of this life unexpectedly to avoid the pain of knowing they were dying. Today however, life-limiting illness is gradually replacing unexpected and sudden death as the ‘norm’, and in its place has come a process which starts at terminal illness diagnosis, moves through a period of treatment, and ends eventually in death.
My hope is to provide information and support that will help those with a terminal illness and their loved ones to consider their own mortality, talk openly about death, and explore the issues facing them so that they can live out their personal journey in a way with which they feel comfortable.
Hearing that you have an illness that can’t be cured can be frightening – especially as you may not have previously given much thought to how or when you will die. Counseling for terminal illness provides an objective, seasoned facilitator to help you with the emotions and conflicts that may arise on this part of your life’s journey.
You may feel:
shocked about the diagnosis
fearful of dying
resentful and angry over the injustice of the situation
in denial about what’s happening
helpless because you cannot control what’s going on
Many people find the process of counseling for terminal illness to be open and freeing. In relieving themselves of conflicts, regrets, resentments and tasks while they are still some distance from death, they ensure that as death approaches they can concentrate on love and relationships, and on transforming the process of death into as vital an element of life as any other precious, rare occurrence. Some people find having a professional counselor who specializes in this area can be very helpful, and in some cases for their close friends and family. (Everyone in our closest circle, as well as ourselves will need help dealing with grief, loss, regrets and even restricting the amount of fear and anger that may be involved in our passing.)
The antithesis of this however, is that talking honestly with those to whom you are closest can help to lessen any feelings of isolation you may have, and you may find that it comes as a relief to have the subject out in the open. Starting the conversation can be the most difficult part, and even though it’s unavoidable, you may find that friends and family will try to avoid it for as long as possible.
While nobody can provide the answers or make the process easier, there are ways that may offer comfort and a level of relief during this time. Counseling for terminal illness is dedicated specifically to help people cope more effectively with the death of a loved one and also to support the grieving process that occurs in response to a person’s own terminal illness. This can help you to adjust to a new sense of self and settle any outstanding areas of conflicts.
Counseling for terminal illness can also help you understand the real grief stages which can be beneficial for both those living with a life-limiting illness and for those around them – not as a model for how you should feel, but as a guide to help you understand and put into context where you are. This can be a natural buffer from the immediate fears and moves us through the first waves of pain and anxiety. If you or someone you love is facing this end of life transition, I am here and would be honored to help.
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Ben Carrettin is Nationally Board Certified, a Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked in the arena of addiction/emotional health and the corporate world for over 20 years. *He is also a lay chaplain with advanced training in pastoral care, grief, serious and terminal illness and cross-cultural communication.