Even if you’ve spent your life thinking, talking and writing about illness, death and dying, nothing can prepare you for the impact of a serious diagnosis which causes you to face, really face, your own mortality. ‘Knowing about’ is different from ‘being’.
Everyone is different and people are unique in how they manage a life-changing diagnosis, but there is enormous solace, comfort and support to be drawn from others who generously share experiences and perspectives on illness, death and dying. Honest conversations about death and dying can bring peace and even make you laugh. It can be liberating and life-affirming.
A lot of people ask: ‘is there is anything I can do?’ which is a caring and compassionate question. The most powerful thing anyone can do is to be present alongside you and to bear your fear, anxiety and worry with you. To walk with someone through difficult times is transformative – never doubt it.
You may not respond in ways that you or others would have anticipated and that can be unsettling. Your thoughts, choices and emotions will be complex and may be contradictory, shifting almost by the moment. Time and patience make sitting with these changing, confusing emotions easier, but it is always a work in progress.
The Samuel Beckett line “to have been always what I am, so changed from what I was” resonates as never before.