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Hopefulness comes from coping with the end of life

June 29, 2004|by Susan Lyons

When dealing with a terminal illness or end-of-life issues, it often is difficult to feel hopeful. Although hope doesn't necessarily correlate to a miracle or a cure, individuals nearing the end of life can remain hopeful for other important things. Particularly when facing death, people can remain hopeful for reconciliation with family members or the opportunity to say or hear "I love you" just one more time.

Examples of hopefulness could include hoping that a grandson will have a great soccer match, that a granddaughter will stop by for a visit, or to live to see family gathered for Thanksgiving. This is not living in denial; it is called coping.

People cope with loss in different ways. Some family members may talk about the stages of dying and try to sum up the experience in a neat package. This could be their way of coping with impending loss.

Whether an individual is in a hospital, a nursing facility or at home as death draws near, the opportunity exists for loving and healing to occur. Letting go of past wrongs is one of the most magical events that can take place near the end of life.

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When put in perspective, loving relationships are more important than past grudges.

There are many resources available to help one cope with the emotional impact of a terminal illness. Hospice and health-care chaplains are always there for those who request pastoral care, regardless of the individual's beliefs. Volunteers and other health-care providers also are available to support the individual and loved ones. Feeling extreme sadness when facing death is not being weak. It is being human. We need to accept our emotions and allow ourselves to express them.




Susan Lyons is a palliative care specialist and a member of the Health Management Department at Washington County Hospital.

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