There is no coming back intact from a terminally ill disease. Neither for the patient nor the loved ones. When death comes naturally, life ends in a snap of fingers. The family members mourn, and move on with their lives keeping the memories of the departed alive. With a terminal illness, on the other hand, a person dies every day. They lose their appetite and their ability to function normally, while the body degenerates until there is no strength left in the muscles. After months of pain and difficulty in breathing, when there is nothing left in the body, except the pulsating veins, terminal illness delivers its final blow. Yes, natural death is equally but with a terminal illness, each day feels like a funeral, filled with helplessness and grief.
Dying Matters Coalition is an NGO that works on raising awareness of mortality. A survey taken up by the NGO reveals that thousands of people in Europe don’t know what their partner’s end-of-life wishes are. Quite a sobering thought. Generally, people tend to keep the subject of mortality at the back of their minds until the situation demands. But when a terminally ill person knows that death is imminent, it’s an overwhelming and dreadful epiphany impossible to shake off. The unbearable pain of leaving the loved ones behind, sleepless nights thinking about ‘should have’ and ‘could have’ and coming to terms with death—how can a person endure all these at once? The stress that fumes, when a doctor breaks the terrible news of terminal illness, split into different emotional barriers such as fear, anger, guilt, and regret. These emotional states consume a patient’s mind, which, on the contrary, should be focused on making every minute count.
The fear of death is one such barrier that keeps the patient awake at night. During such testing times, a terminally ill person should ask themselves what scares them the most about death? Is it the unfinished bucket list? Or emotional and physical pain? Fear of dying? Or the fact that everything will cease to exist as nothing lies beyond death? A dying person’s mind is often left crippled with such thoughts, making them anxious and afraid in their last moments.
The questions vary as per the mental state of a patient, but in the end, it all boils down to attitude and perspectives. Counselling psychologist with The British Psychological Society, Dr. Elaine Ryan writes on her website: “The only difference between an intrusive thought that pops into your head and then leaves, and an intrusive thought that is distressing, is how you respond to it.” For instance, if someone is afraid of being alone, they should share their fears with their family and friends. On the same lines, when someone is sharing their fears, people should remember to listen more and speak less. Grief counsellor Len Auclair writes in his blog: “You share their loss, simply by being with them and not thinking of what to say next. It is not necessary. Your presence is enough. You can selectively reflect back their own words… less is more.”By doing this, loved ones can also prevent any wrong ideas from springing into the mind of a dying person, helping them see things in a new light.