It can be emotionally and physically difficult dealing with a terminal illness. To help understand what type of impact a terminal illness can have on someone’s overall life and for tips on coping with a terminal illness, I have interviewed psychotherapist Brittany Neece.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. I then went on to receive my Master of Arts Degree in Counseling from St. Edwards University. I am currently licensed as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in the state of Texas. One of my passions as a therapist is working with grief and loss issues and those who have a terminal illness or have a family member with such an illness. I work closely with a local Hospice organization as well as various Stephen Ministry programs to provide education and counseling services around such issues. I also hold personal experience of having family members and close friends who have battled with terminal illness.”
What type of impact can a terminal illness have on someone’s overall life?
“A terminal illness can have a profound effect on someone’s life and generally does. People may start to re-evaluate their life, experience a whirlwind of different emotions, and discover strengths they never knew they had as they fight the battle of their life. They may start to look at the world differently and begin evaluating what is truly important from what is not. More often than not, the person with the terminal illness is not only facing grief issues around the possibilities of all he/she might lose or never get to experience, but also deals with anxiety or guilt of those who will be left behind. In such cases, the person with the illness takes on the role of providing support and being an emotional caretaker of their loved ones who are experiencing anticipated grief.
Needless to say there are physical, emotional, and spiritual changes that can take place within a person with a terminal illness. They must make adjustments to their daily lifestyle as their bodies change, their emotions are heightened, and they may be contemplating more existential ideas about the meaning of life or what happens after death. For some, they may experience depression-like symptoms or elevated anxiety; for others, they may choose to deny the seriousness of their condition or only discuss their illness with an optimistic and hopeful view. Some may decide they do not want to discuss their illness at all.”
What are some tips for coping with a terminal illness?
Just as grief is a very personal and unique process for each individual, so is deciding how to cope with terminal illness. Ultimately, what seems to be one of the most important ways to cope (for both those with the terminal illness or loved ones of such individuals) is to allow yourself to feel the way you need to feel, and to say what you need to say. This can help to minimize regrets and provide pathways for peace. For the person with a terminal illness, finding what helps you experience peace, even if only temporary is critical. For some this may be appreciating humor in things around you, spending time outdoors in nature, embracing a loved one, or simply taking a long soak in a warm bath.
Also, remember that as things are changing for you and those around you, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Allow yourself to ask for help when needed, and to acknowledge that sometimes just taking one moment at a time is all that you can do. More and more research is showing what a strong connection the mind and body have with one another. Many terminally ill people find comfort, hope, or strength in taking steps to create positive energy in their minds and bodies. One suggestion is to visualize and imagine yourself as fully healed and whole ‘” How do you feel? What are you doing? Imagine yourself doing all the things you have dreamed of. Allow yourself to live out your dreams in your mind.
Another tip is to be open to the idea of making your requests known and to take part in planning future arrangements. Yes, it can be very difficult or scary to discuss end of life issues ; however, just because you discuss these matters with your loved ones does not mean that you are giving up or that you will not survive. You are actually making your needs and desires known, which can be a great relief to your loved ones who desperately want to honor your wishes but may not know how to do that.”
What type of professional help is available for someone that is having a difficult time coping with a terminal illness?
“I would highly recommend anyone having difficulty coping with a terminal illness or a family member with such an illness to seek professional help. This can be such a surreal process for anyone, and you don’t have to go at it alone. There are several wonderful resources for those who are seeking help. Contacting your local hospice organization is a great start to obtain information about support groups, professional counselors, and highly trained individuals in your area who can educate you on what your options are for ensuring the best care possible for someone with a terminal illness. They can also guide you in having those important discussions about end of life issues and arrangements in case they are needed.
Additionally, if you are seeking assistance or guidance from a religious or spiritual perspective, you can contact a Stephen Ministry program in your area. Many churches have Stephen Ministry programs with caring, devoted people who have been trained in providing additional emotional and spiritual support for someone with a terminal illness. You can also obtain information about local professional therapists who specialize in grief and loss issues and working with those with terminal illness by utilizing online search engines or various therapy directories. It can be especially important to seek out a professional if you want to talk to someone and your family or support system is unable to meet these needs . For some loved ones, having these difficult discussions with the terminally ill person can be emotionally overwhelming and they may not know how to handle it ‘” this does not mean they do not care. Sometimes professional help is needed to be able to provide the support required for someone struggling with their illness, and to help loved ones cope with their struggles as well. “
Thank you Brittany for doing the interview on tips for coping with a terminal illness. For more information on Brittany Neece or her work you can check out her website at www.brittanyneece.com.
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