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Should I talk about death with a loved one who has a terminal illness?

Talking about death with someone who has a terminal illness is often difficult. Possibly you worry that you'll undercut your spouse's will to continue or swamp your friend in fear. Speaking about death may seem like a form of abandonment because it suggests you've given up on the lingering promise of a cure. Your own anxiety, sadness, and discomfort may make the words choke in your throat.

Yet some people who are dying are comforted by the thought that they will be embraced, not abandoned, no matter what happens. They may tire of keeping up a good front or talking around a topic that looms so large that every other conversation strikes false notes. They may be stifling their own numerous fears: leaving loved ones, losing control, becoming a burden, and leaving tasks and plans unfinished. Many people dread a painful death or the reflected fears of others. Sharing such fears and expressing beliefs about death can help people feel less overwhelmed and alone. It can also diminish physical pain, which is aggravated by fear.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.