Getting a terminal illness diagnosis is devastating in every way imaginable. After getting the worst news of your life, you will be hit by a tornado of confusing and conflicting emotions. It is natural to feel hopeless and helpless at such a difficult time. But whilst there’s nothing we can say to change your situation, there are some things you can do to try and help yourself and the people around you through it.

Let yourself wallow

This may seem a little bit counterintuitive, but before you can even think about buckling up and being strong, you should give yourself some time to wallow in your grief. After receiving this kind of news you may feel angry, resentful, shocked, depressed, numb or even all of the aforementioned emotions. There’s absolutely no shame in that. It’s an overwhelming situation and you need to let yourself feel and process your feelings before you can even think about being strong.

Be productive

This might not apply to everyone, but some people may find it useful to focus on being productive and organised. It’s very easy to simply give up once you’ve been hit with this kind of devastating news, so focusing on productive things may be helpful. This may be something crazy and adventurous like ticking off a bucket list or it could be finishing off home renovations.

Though it may seem morbid, making arrangements for after their death makes some people feel in control. This can include things such as a funeral or farewell service. There are many companies such as Olsens Funerals who offer pre-paid funeral services where you can pay for and plan your funeral so that your loved ones don’t have to.

Of course, this may not be an option for everyone. For some, it may simply be too difficult to think about and that’s fine. You need to do what’s right for you.

Ask for help

Whether it’s because you don’t want people to treat you differently or you simply want to spare them the pain, it is natural to want to keep your diagnosis quiet. But the reality is that you will need some help to get through this. Whether it’s emotional support or logistical things such as lifts to the hospital, having people around to help you will make things a little easier to handle.

Focus on the positives

This is very easy to say and a lot harder to do, but trying to stay positive is key. Staying positive all the time is pretty much impossible of course but try to start and finish every day by telling yourself at least one positive thing you are thankful for. It could be the presence of family, a nice moment you had with a friend or even something as simple as a beautiful sunrise.

Whatever if it is, take time to focus on the things that made you smile that day. There will be plenty of sad, emotional and difficult times ahead so focusing on those positive things, however small, will make a huge difference to your emotional wellbeing.

Stay active

Again, we understand that this is a lot easier said than done, but wherever possible, try to stay active. This will of course be different for everyone. Depending on your illness, it may simply mean making yourself a cup of tea in the mornings whilst for others it could be a matter of going out and socialising with friends. In some cases, it could just be a matter of doing sudoku puzzles or crosswords from the comfort of your sofa. Whatever you can manage (and whatever your doctor allows), try and stay as active as you can as it will have a huge impact on your mind-set and emotional well-being.


There’s nothing we can say to make this situation easy for you, but hopefully our advice can help just a little. In a situation where most things are completely out of your control, the only thing you can really control is your attitude and outlook. So try to keep active, focus on the positives and surround yourself with loved ones as much as possible.