Module overview


The expert says
Description to come(3:22)Video transcript
I’ve been there
Catherine and her mother Diane speak about the importance of laughter and being open to experiencing emotions as they come when living with a terminal illness. (3:22)Video transcript

At first, she wouldn’t let me drive her to the hospital or to appointments or be involved in her meds.

When the patient first receives a diagnosis, you, the patient, and your



“Family” can be whatever that means to you, whether you are biologically related or not. Examples include a parent and kids; a group of siblings and their partners; multiple generations; kinship systems with members who aren’t related by blood or marriage; a group of friends; and any other relationships with people you consider your “family.”  



are likely to experience all kinds of thoughts and feelings, both initially and throughout the course of the illness. Everyone’s experience will be unique.

There is no road map showing how the last months of life for a person with advanced illness and their caregivers, family, and loved ones will unfold. Typically, there are many ups and downs. The unpredictability of illness can be emotionally draining as everyone wonders what to expect next. Many have described this time as an emotional roller coaster.

This module will explore some of the emotions and family member reactions in detail and provide some ideas to help. This includes:

  • Looking at some strong emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, hope, and grief.
  • Exploring reactions such as disbelief, denial, and a need for closeness and intimacy.
  • Examining how current roles held by different family members may shift and change when there is a life-limiting diagnosis.
  • Looking at some strategies and ideas to help when anger and conflict surface or become more pronounced within families when there is a serious illness.

Although this module may not capture exactly what you are feeling, if you recognize just a bit of yourself here, you may feel better understood and equipped to respond to this challenging time.

Words of wisdom

Your presence and support are the greatest gifts you can give to a person who is seriously ill. This time can offer you both a chance to talk about things that matter.

​​ Helpful resources