Coping With a Loved One’s Long Term Illness

The statistics are alarming. In 2003 an estimated 556,902 people died from cancer. Every year there are 5.2 million people living with Alzheimer’s and it’s estimated that 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s in their lifetime. If that’s not enough, 1 million people are afflicted with Parkinson’s and an estimated 3 million people are undiagnosed. However, this article isn’t about those who are sick or who might become afflicted with some unfortunate illness. This article is about those of us on the other side of the illness. 

It can be confusing to find yourself facing a parent, sibling, child, spouse or friend who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. We all know that we are eventually going to be faced with death at some point in our lives. But we hope that when our loved one’s pass on, that they will go peacefully, quickly, and without pain. However, when we find out that someone close has an illness that may not be curable, or in some cases may take years to run its course, we find ourselves unprepared.


Here are some tips to help prepare you a little more for what you are currently going through, or may go through in the future and keep for how to cope with a loved one’s illness. Unfortunately I’ve learned some of these through personal experience, but nonetheless, they are helpful and will benefit both you and your loved one.

  • Finish Your Unfinished Business: If there is anything you need to share or get off your chest, now is the time to do it. Leave no regrets or unopened doors. Ask the questions you’ve always wanted to know the answers to. However, do this in a respectful way. This isn’t permission to rage or pop-off at your loved one. This suggestion is meant for healing, because once they’re gone, you won’t get the chance to have this face-to-face discussion with them again. 
  • Spend As Much Time As You Can With Them: Understandably physical distance can keep people apart. But, if you have the chance to see this person often, cherish the time. I’ve never heard anyone comment, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with them before they died.”
  • Talk to Someone About Your Feelings: Whether it’s a friend or another person who’s dealing with the same situation, talk. It helps to connect to someone who understands what you’re going through. If you do not have someone you trust to talk to, then I highly encourage you to talk to a therapist. 
  • Pray: Ask God or your Higher Power for strength to get through each day. Ask for wisdom and guidance when it gets too confusing and heavy. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God or our Higher Power is still there even though we are in so much emotional pain. But, we are not alone.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful and resourceful. If you need additional support, please give Imagine Hope Counseling Group a call at 317-569-0046. We provide individual, marriage and family counseling for Indianapolis, and the surrounding areas including Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Noblesville and Westfield.