When you’re reaching the end of your life, it doesn’t mean that you have less need for love, companionship, friendship and fun. For many people, partners, family and friends become even more important and are a vital source of support and reassurance.
However, serious illness can strain relationships and many people find it difficult to know what to say. You may find that people react in unexpected ways. Some may try to deny the seriousness of the situation by being unrealistically cheerful, which can make it difficult for you to say how you feel. Other people may try to avoid you, rather than risk saying the wrong thing. Some people may avoid talking about your illness completely, while others may appear to be unsympathetic.
Your partner, children or close friends may irritate you by being overprotective or trying to ‘wrap you in cotton wool’. Sometimes, close family and lifelong friends may feel like strangers, just at the time when you need them most.
Sometimes, partners try to protect each other from the truth by denying it, even though both are aware of what’s happening. Talking openly with each other about your feelings can help support both of you through sadness, anxiety and uncertainty. You may find that your relationship becomes stronger as you face the challenge of your illness together.
It’s important to keep your relationship as normal as possible. So if you’ve always been close and talked a lot, try to continue to do this. When words fail you or don’t seem enough, a hug or holding hands can be very comforting. If you’ve always argued a lot, don’t feel that you must try to change this. There are bound to be times when you don’t get on well. If you argue, having short breaks from each other can help you think more calmly and recharge your emotional energy.
Remember that everyone will be shocked by the news. Your family and friends are also dealing with powerful emotions, and may need help and support to deal with them. People’s initial reactions don’t necessarily reflect their true feelings. Our cancer support specialists can provide advice and support for your family and friends.
Many people who are reaching the end of their lives find that their relationships improve as they, and the people close to them, realise what’s really important. You may become much closer to some people. Your illness can also be an opportunity for you and others to get back in touch, or resolve past arguments or bad feelings.