Chapter 1: Exploring feelings while living with a serious diagnosis


There was a lot of anxiety about dying.

Anxiety arises when someone feels overwhelmed or threatened in some way. Dealing with complex healthcare and end-of-life issues means that you are both facing a steep learning curve.

Probably one of the biggest sources of anxiety for families is the sense of uncertainty, often related to how the illness will progress and when death might occur. Often you are trying to absorb and understand unfamiliar information, as well as manage challenging emotional issues. For families who are considering caregiving at home, the added anxiety of how they will manage and if they are doing the right thing may also be a factor.

Another source of anxiety for families is the shift in roles and responsibilities that takes place when someone is ill. For example, if a parent is affected by illness, another person may experience additional parenting demands.

Children may also feel anxious when dealing with the changes in the household. To reduce their anxiety, offer detailed information about who will take care of them and what changes they will see in their day-to-day routines.

Anxiety can impact different people in different ways, even members of the same family. Below are three general intensities of anxiety. Click each one to read more.

What may help

Sometimes anxiety can be helped by knowing what to expect. Talk to your healthcare team to learn as much about your illness, what to expect, and what can be done to help the situation.

Consider connecting to additional sources of supports for both of you. Your healthcare team can provide referrals to social workers, counsellors, spiritual care providers, volunteers, and group programs that offer counselling, emotional support, education (e.g., relaxation techniques), practical suggestions, and information.

The resources below may help you understand possible sources of anxiety, evaluate your anxiety, and identify some strategies to help reduce anxiety. 

Helpful Resources