- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Emotional and spiritual concerns
- Talking about dying
Talking about dying
Most people are not used to talking about death and dying, and it’s common to avoid this conversation or to use different words such as “passed away”, “departed”, “gone” or “slipped away”.
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There may be days when you feel like talking about approaching the end of life, and days when you don’t. This may even change from minute to minute. In general, it can help to discuss your fears and concerns about death with trusted family and friends. When you share how you think and feel with people you trust, it can help support all of you through the sadness, anxiety and uncertainty.
Some people dying with cancer have said that the process can feel isolating and lonely, even with a stream of visitors. This is particularly true if family and friends avoid talking about what is happening. If you are comfortable with people acknowledging that you are dying with cancer, let them know.
You may find that you don’t want to talk about dying, or that you want to discuss it with some people but not others. You may be the type of person who would prefer to focus on making the most of the time you have left, rather than talking about death. In some cultures, people think it’s disrespectful to talk about dying, or they may feel that talking about death makes it happen sooner.
Everyone handles dying in their own way. If you don’t want to talk about facing the end of life, your wishes should be respected.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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