Living With Serious Illness

When to Accept the End of Life

Advances in medicine have granted longer lives than when there was a serious or terminal diagnosis a generation ago. One might ask themselves when should they stop seeing themselves as “living with” and begin to think of it as “dying from” an illness?

From a “positive thinking” perspective it may be suggested that one should not gravitate toward the dying aspect until all hope is gone. While I’m not suggesting preoccupation with death, there is value in considering a diagnosis as a way to prepare meaningfully for end of life. This can lead to a time of personal growth and fulfillment and more meaningful experiences than if, until the very end, one persisted with the thought of “beating it”.

When accepting the end of life, healing might take on a different meaning. One may be drawn to mend relationships or find renewed connection with nature. It may be easier to shift priorities and find ways to renew that sense of wonder and appreciation that was lost in the busyness life.

Exploring possibilities for handling this transition can happen alone or with the support of a friend, family member, clergy or therapist. It should be someone who is not afraid to talk about the truth of limited time on earth. Trust oneself with this, follow and see where it leads.

Recommendations to Prepare for End of Life

  • Say “I love you”, “I’m sorry,” “Forgive me” and “I forgive you”
  • Spend time with people who are important to you.
  • Tell your story.
  • Create a legacy (letters, video recordings).
  • Take one last trip.
  • Choose someone to make decisions for you in the event you will not be able to do so yourself.
  • Write a will directing your heirs what to do with possessions and finances.
  • Complete a Power Of Attorney for Healthcare and a Living Will.


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