Note – I’m posting this now because I believe it is useful. It was the only article that I wrote in the series because my dad died 6 weeks after he was diagnosed. In talking with peers who have experiences GBM it is not uncommon for things to end extremely quick. I miss my dad, I miss his laugh a lot and I miss the relationship he and my mom shared. That, more than anything is what I feel the worst about. My mom is a great lady, my dad was great man, their relationship was still going strong so it’s sad that it ended so early.
This is the first in a series of articles about being the relative of someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It could be useful for those not directly impacted by the illness as it may give some insight into what we’re going through. For those who have been leveled with the news of the coming premature ending of a loved-ones life, invest in yourself and the experience you have begun. This is a process that hurts. The biggest legacy you can now leave for your relative is to get good at helping them enjoy dying and learn as much as you can from the experience so you can be useful to others when they join our ranks.
Day Of Terminal Diagnosis (DOTD) +3 weeks.
There are going to be two points in this process that are going to be highly significant. The second is when your relative dies, the first is their day of terminal diagnosis. You experience both of these as deaths although there is a relapse of sorts in the grief if there is an improvement in their condition. With GBM most people experience a reversal of cognitive symptoms so their return to life is welcomed because it blunts the sharpness of the news and the waves it caused.
There is no right way to feel although feeling some things is better than others. Happiness, laughter, joy, reflecting back on their memories, harvesting their wisdom and experience. If they have given of themselves to move your life forward pay them the respect and hear every word they are saying.
Your friends feel as useless as you do and they don’t realize how to help most effectively. The most important thing they can do is to be completely honest with you and forfeit their judgments of you. It should go without say, but sometimes people need a reminder. Watching someone you love die isn’t as easy as watching someone you love grow-up. Both are challenging, but with one you see the potential be actualized, with the other you see the potential float away.
They are dying, you are not. Make your peace / say those really important things early and when appropriate, let them process it and let it go. You did what you did for reasons that felt valid at the time. It doesn’t matter very much anyway, they’re dying and they’d rather live in the present than rehash the past. If you have unresolved issues consider the key thing that you need them to know and tell them that. If you don’t, consider telling them how grateful you are that they did what they did to help you become the person you are, someone you are happy to be. Then let it go, have some fun and be happy! They will be gone soon and you will have plenty of time to grieve, grow-up, adapt, and find your peace with your own place in life.
There are stages of grief that have been well documented and which are scientifically proven. Get to know these stages because with a terminal diagnosis there will be a blurring of many of them. Encourage those who offer support to get to know them too, because if they take the anger personally, it isn’t going to help you at all. In fact, it can shift focus off of your loved one and onto something that will remain well after they have gone. This isn’t a great way to spend the final weeks and days of someones life.
I’m hopeful that I’ll get to write a bunch more of these articles. Fingers crosses!