Coping with terminal illness

A terminal illness diagnosis can be devastating news for the person receiving the diagnosis, as well as for anyone else who holds them dear. In reality, most of us will have a hard time processing this kind of information, even if we expected the diagnosis. There simply is no right or wrong way to react, and people commonly experience extreme emotions or a sense of numbness after they’ve been given such news.

You might find you need time to think, or just to be with friends and family. At times, you may find your feelings become overwhelming, and you may feel distress at seeing other people getting on with their daily lives. These feelings become more manageable for most people over time.

Of course, finding out about a terminal illness is difficult for family members to hear. It's especially hard for children to come to terms with sad news, but our research on The lessons of life and loss may help your children find some perspective.

Where to find help after a diagnosis

There are many resources that could help you cope with your emotions and worries at this difficult time:

  • Speaking to someone close, who you trust – a family member or friend, is often the best way to start.
  • You may prefer to speak to someone who doesn’t know you – someone who might be able to remain more objective – like a professional counsellor. You can find out more about what counselling can offer, and details of counsellors in your area, at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
  • There are support groups across the country where you can meet and talk to people who are in a similar situation to you. Your healthcare team may be able to tell you about groups local to you, or you can find them via GOV.UK.
  • If you prefer not to meet face-to-face, there are online groups where you can talk and share experiences. You don’t even have to interact – simply reading other peoples’ posts may be reassuring. Among the better known are Macmillan Cancer Support and HealthUnlocked.
  • If your religious beliefs are important to you, you might find it helpful to talk to a religious leader at your hospital. Nursing staff should be able to tell you who to speak to.
  • Your nursing specialists or your doctor should also be able to suggest other ways to help you.

The benefit of Life Insurance if diagnosed with a terminal illness

Our Life Insurance and Decreasing Life Insurance includes Terminal Illness Cover as an additional benefit. It could pay out the full amount of cover in advance if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness (when life expectancy is less than 12 months) during your period of cover. 

Other life insurance providers may provide Terminal Illness Cover as part of their policies. Please check with your provider for details.