Emotional Challenges

When you are seriously ill or in the last weeks and months of life, you are likely to experience changing feelings and emotions. It is also normal to have intense feelings when someone close is seriously ill.

These feelings can be difficult to describe, and overwhelming. They are not always easy to understand or cope with. They can affect:

  • you and those around you in different ways
  • your ability to take in and accept information
  • how you adjust to the changes that are happening
  • how you make decisions.
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Some feelings are related to sadness. Some feelings are a result of physical discomfort or maybe pain. It will help if you can try to recognise what is causing the feelings. Your health professional can help with pain and any symptoms.

However, if you can't function you should seek help.

A sense of loss or spiritual pain can create intense feelings. You may never have felt anything like this. Talking with someone loved and trusted is helpful. When you are very ill it can also help you to focus on and appreciate the important things in life. This could be spending time with family and friends. This may be the time to do the things that you have always had planned. Being able to talk about what you are feeling, and your hopes and fears, can be helpful for many people.

Dealing with the feelings and emotions of others

Not everyone is comfortable talking about death and dying. Friends and family may:

  • worry about upsetting you
  • not want to get upset in front of you
  • be experiencing difficult emotions
  • need time to make their own adjustments
  • be very sensitive to what you are feeling
  • worry if they seem not to be coping with what is happening.

Family and friends may want to share their emotions with you. This may be difficult for you all.

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You may find it difficult to talk about things with family. Sometimes someone outside the family is easier to talk to. This could be a friend or professional person.

Information in this section looks at some of these emotional challenges.




  • Joanne Lynn's book 'Handbook for Mortals' provides useful and caring advice and support.


Last updated 10 July 2020