Coping with the news that you’re dying

This section discusses the different ways you may cope with the news that you’re approaching the end of life, and how your family and friends may cope. Everyone reacts in their own way. It is natural to feel a range of strong emotions and for these feelings to change often.

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Hearing the news

Learning that you may not have long to live is shocking news. Even if you are aware that the cancer is progressing, hearing that you are dying can be devastating.

We all know that death is a natural part of life and that it will happen to us all one day, but most of us hope that we won’t die anytime soon. Realising that death is close can be frightening and hard to believe. For some people, however, it may be a relief.

You may have questions straightaway, or you might need time to absorb the news and come to terms with the prognosis.


Your feelings

After the initial shock, feelings of fear, denial, anger, despair, helplessness and anxiety are common. You may also worry about being a burden to family and friends – emotionally, physically, socially and financially.

You probably will have more than one emotion at a time. These feelings are likely to change, sometimes from day to day or even from hour to hour. This is often part of the process of making sense of what is happening. You may find it hard to think clearly. It’s natural to cry, so don’t feel like you have to put on a brave face.

Many people compare these feelings to waves at the beach. The first waves may knock you off your feet, then your footing becomes a little stronger. But, at any time, a large wave can suddenly come back and knock you off your feet again.

The waves of emotions may not hit in any particular order, but people often say that their fears are stronger when they’re lying in bed at night, and that they rarely share them with others.

These feelings probably won’t go away altogether, but they may change over time. You may work out strategies that help you cope. Find someone you can talk to, perhaps a family member or friend.

You could also consider seeking professional help through a palliative care specialist, general practitioner (GP), counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist or spiritual adviser. Other people who are nearing the end of life offer a unique perspective, so you may want to consider joining a support group.

    − Victor Fournere, ‘Living with death’, The Observer, Sunday 19 June 2011


Telling others

People share the news in different ways. There is no easy way to start this conversation, but you may find it helps to prepare.

  • When you feel ready, decide who to tell and what you want to say. Think of answers to possible questions, but only respond if you feel comfortable. You don’t have to share every detail.
  • Choose a quiet time and place.
  • Accept that people may react in a number of ways. They may be uncomfortable and perhaps not know what to say. If they get upset, you may find yourself comforting them, even though you are the one dying. Another common reaction is denial – they may be convinced that the doctors are wrong. Some people may find it difficult to be around you, and you may feel abandoned by people you thought would be supportive.
  • Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you need help telling people. They can help you find the words that feel right for you. Another option is to ask your doctor or nurse to help you share the news.

For ways to talk to people (including children) about dying, read about emotional and spiritual concerns.


Do people who are dying need to be told?

Sometimes family members learn the cancer is terminal before the person who is dying. They may think the person is too young or too old to be told the truth. Some cultures may also think it’s best that the person is not told.

Usually people who are dying know what is happening. Keeping it a secret from them may mean they feel isolated at a time when they most need support. Ask the person if they would want to know and follow their wishes.

The health care team can help you with this conversation and also with an approach for complex situations, such as when the person dying has dementia.


Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on facing end of life.


    Facing End of Life

  • 1 MB

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in January 2017
View who reviewed this content
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Support services

Caring for someone with cancer
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Emotions and cancer
People who are affected by cancer in some way can experience a range of emotions, that can be very challenging to deal with at times. Learn more.

Advanced cancer
Information for all stages of advanced cancer, from the initial diagnosis to palliative care and grief.

 

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