An illness in the family can be incredibly difficult for everyone to bear, and it's important for everyone in the family to have an outlet for their emotions. When the illness is expected to be terminal, a family therapist who has experience handling end-of-life issues can help.
Here's what you can expect from family therapy:
Assistance Accepting the Disease and the Future
The person directly affected by the terminal condition is often able to benefit from therapy in surprising ways. Most people don't have a clear idea about what they want their final days to be like—especially when the end is coming earlier than they ever expected.
Therapy may focus on a number of different areas directly related to the client's condition, like:
The big focus is on getting to the place where the diagnosis doesn't overwhelm the patient and leave him or her emotionally exhausted and depressed.
Family members can also work through their emotions. Family members often need help accepting the fact that they cannot control the outcome of the situation or make it better. Many times, they also need help accepting the sick individual's final wishes, especially if he or she decides to end treatment.
Finding Ways to Be Productive and Happy
Therapy can also help a patient more actively live and enjoy his or her remaining time. Counselors can often suggest a number of ways that their clients can feel productive (if that's what makes them the happiest) during their final days.
For example, a therapist can help a terminally-ill client determine what he or she still wants to accomplish given the amount of productive time he or she likely has left. A terminal illness doesn't necessarily mean that all goals have to cease. Some people may want to travel and see the world, while other people may want to spend their remaining time with their families.
However, even making those choices can leave the terminally ill feeling conflicted or guilty. If, for example, a terminally ill person agrees to spend his or her remaining time with family members when he or she really wants to take a special trip, that can lead to unnecessary resentment and additional sorrow for everyone. A therapist can help the whole family come to an agreement about what is really best.
While death is ultimately a solo experience, the days leading up to death after a terminal diagnosis aren't. Family therapy can help everyone involved feel a stronger, deeper connection to each other, accept the inevitable, and maintain a sense of purpose and control over life.
For more information, talk to companies like The A Treatment Center.
After developing a chronic physical illness, I soon began realizing that the disease plagued my mind almost more than it did my body. While my illness is not life-threatening, it was very difficult accepting that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life and eat a strict diet. After a year of depression, I finally overcame my fear of "exposing" my feelings to others and made an appointment with a mental health counselor. With her help, I was able to see the "silver linings" in life that I had greatly taken for granted before I became ill. I now encourage anyone who is battling an illness of any type to seek the psychological help they need. I plan to post lots of little mental health tips and tricks on my new blog along with advice for choosing a good counselor. Please come back soon!