When your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it is a time to prepare for the many possibilities that lie ahead. Arranging for the possibility of death is a necessary part of the process, both emotionally and financially. If his or her health were to decline into the inevitable, you and your fellow loved ones can support each other by reaching out and weathering this process together. Here are a few things you must do when your loved one is diagnosed with cancer:
Listen as They Grieve. When your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it’s easy to become a cheerleader of sorts. Instead of pushing them with positive comments, it may be best to just sit with them. Let them say what they need to say and let them cry if they need to cry. This includes giving advice. It’s natural to want to help, but help comes in many forms. For instance, it’s more helpful to say that you will be there for them than it is to tell them what is good and bad. If they prefer, visit them regularly just to be a presence in their lives and allow them to decompress. Remaining present with them with compassion will show that they are not alone and that they have the support to pull through.
Support Their Treatment Decision. If you have not been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you may likely not understand the emotional condition that they are in. As you listen to them, allow them to be open about the options they are considering. If their condition is terminal, you may not understand that they want to continue with chemotherapy. On the other hand, if they are allowing themselves to take a holistic approach, do not reproach them for doing so because of your own opinions. Ultimately, it is their decision to treat their illness in the way that they choose.
Rally a Support System. It is important to stay connected with them and to rally his or her friends and family to participate together. Your loved one needs to feel the support of a community who can uplift him or her and inspire them to push through. This is not only important to the loved one but also for you. For many people—especially those who have never gone through this process before—it may be a time of intense emotional confusion. Find reliable friends and family whom you can trust to vent about the process with. Make sure that they, too, are people who will listen. If there is no one in your life whom you can talk to, consider consulting a professional therapist who can help you through the process. Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup—you must be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.
Prepare Financially. It may feel unbefitting to think about money at this time, but the importance of this is all too real. In the event that your loved one should pass, it is important that the caretaker, family or anyone involved is prepared to handle the finances. Most immediately, it is important to look through his or her insurance policies, and possibly the need to pay for a funeral. Funeral costs can add up to thousands of dollars—the national average is around $8000 according to the Federal Trade Commission. There are several options when choosing to pay for the cost of a funeral service. Some of these routes include life insurance or burial insurance. If you are considering life insurance, look into your loved one’s policy to see how quickly the company will pay out. Websites like burialinsurance.org provide packages so that you can provide for your loved one’s funeral in the way that he or she wishes.
Treat Them Normally. Another natural part of the process is to want to do things for him or her. While this is thoughtful and invited, it is also important to allow them to live the everyday life they desire to return to. They likely will not need to be coddled nor will they always want to talk about their condition. Again, simply being there and allowing them to be themselves through the process is important. In the event that they recover, they will need emotional support to come to terms with the gravity of their experience. By remaining present with them, you are showing immense generosity that will continue to inspire them should they recover.