The conversation every couple must have . . . What if your spouse is terminally ill?

In some cases couples have the opportunity to plan and prepare – if a loved one is terminally ill for example, but even then they prefer to avoid the subject as it is so sombre. If your spouse is busy dying and you avoid the subject, remember the following:

1. Do not force him/her to talk about it. It will happen when he/she is ready for it.
2. Do not be sad if they discuss it with someone else, but let him/her understand that you are ready to talk about it if they are.
3. Use the language your spouse prefers. You do not have to triple around words like ‘die’, but using euphemisms like ‘when you go’ might be better.
4. Acknowledge all the emotions your spouse is going through.
5. If your spouse is the one that initiates the conversation, do not shy away from it by saying: “Don’t say that . . .” Even if you are not ready, allow him/her to do it.
6. When you are ready, talk naturally about how things should be when he/she is no longer there. Ask if there are special wishes such as: “Do you want me to stay in our home or should the kids and I move to a smaller/safer place?”
7. Talk about his/her illness and the hopes and dreams for the future. You can find out if he/she has any specific fears for the future and if something can be done about it. For example to ask the doctor for medication if the pain becomes too much.

It is a conversation that sends a shudder down your spine. It makes you uncomfortable and distressed. But it is a reality that we all need to deal with so you can be prepared if it happens to you.

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