Practical Steps You Can Take When Facing a Terminal Illness

Written by Tina Martin

Getting a terminal diagnosis is a complicated emotional experience, and there’s no one right way to react. Numbness, sorrow, fear - even, depending on your journey with your illness, relief - are all perfectly common and normal ways to react. Just as with any major grief-triggering event, you may fluctuate between these states and others as time goes by.

One common emotion that we don’t necessarily associate with a terminal diagnosis, but often arises, is determination. Many terminally ill people and their families find that making practical, solid plans for the future helps them to cope. If you’re at a stage where you’d like to take on some practical work, here’s a look at some of the most useful - and cathartic - measures you can take after a terminal illness diagnosis:

Prepare Your Home

If you live alone, or your family intends to move after you pass, preparing your home for sale can be surprisingly therapeutic. This is especially true if you have friends or family there to help. You can, together, go through heirlooms, photos, and other sentimental items to decide what you should and shouldn’t keep. Although this can be a painful process, it’s also a beautiful opportunity to connect with one another during challenging times.

You can also help your family prepare for how to best approach eventually putting your home on the market. For example, you can look into death disclosure laws in your area. If you plan to pass away at home - or your illness is such that you may get little warning - your family may need to disclose the death upon selling. Few states require this for a peaceful death, but it’s important to make sure your family is informed about their obligations as sellers.

Create or Finalize Your Will

Another practical step you can take in the face of a terminal illness diagnosis is to make sure your will is in order. If you haven’t already created one, ask around for recommendations for good estate lawyers in your area. Work with someone you can trust to confidently handle your estate, as well as who can give you solid advice on how to pass your assets on as effectively as possible.

This is also the right time to talk to your loved ones about your will. This can be a tricky topic to navigate, but there are techniques you can use to do so smoothly. For example, it’s wise to let people know that they will receive an inheritance, but you should avoid giving specific figures, percentages, or amounts. If there are any conditions on the inheritance, such as keeping the money in a trust, you should communicate this in advance as well so your loved ones know what to expect.

Plan Your Funeral

Although not everyone will feel this way, for many, one of the silver linings of a terminal diagnosis is the chance to help plan your own funeral. If you have strong feelings about how you’d like to be remembered, you can use this time as a chance to share those opinions. This is especially useful if you believe your loved ones may have contradicting ideas about how to celebrate your life and mourn your passing - you have the chance to be the ultimate tiebreaker.

Many people also use this as an opportunity to help their loved ones find lower-cost options. In the face of intense grief, many mourners find it disrespectful to choose the less expensive options while planning a funeral. If that doesn’t matter to you, however, you can plan your funeral yourself, picking the choices that fit your wants and budget. Reducing work and cost for your loved ones is a gesture many terminally ill people cherish the opportunity to make.

Remember, you may feel up to practical tasks one day, and then completely unable to process this kind of work the next. It’s important to be gentle with yourself through these fluctuations, and focus on doing whatever is best for you at that moment. Above all, seek the activities that will take you through this journey with comfort and peace.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Meet the author

Tina Martin stays busy as a life coach and works hard to help herself and her clients achieve a healthy work-life balance. She is also working on her first book, Ideaspired: Put Your Ideas, Your Inspiration, and Yourself First to Make Your Dreams Come True.

You can find wonderful Tina here.


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