It is a very sad and confusing time when someone you care about is diagnosed with a terminal illness. You will want them to know you are there to support them and that they are in your thoughts. A great way to do this is to send a letter in the mail. It could also be a card or a short note. Any gesture will surely be appreciated, whether it is a close family member or an acquaintance.
Writing the note can be very difficult because you are unsure what to say. You don’t want to say the wrong thing, and you want to make sure your support comes across the way you intend it to. If you’ve never dealt personally with a terminal condition, you don’t quite know what someone in that position wants to hear.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for writing a tactful and encouraging note to someone with a terminal condition.
Make sure that your note has a positive tone. Even if the person is close to dying, don’t be negative in any way.
Don’t say that you feel sorry for them. Show your concern by making it clear that they have your support and love. That you care about them is the most important thing.
Don’t Say Goodbye
Don’t use your note as an opportunity to say your final goodbye to someone. Remain upbeat and stress hope rather than sound like you have given up on them.
Don’t Place Any Blame
Even if your loved one is dying of cancer due to years of cigarette smoking, don’t say anything that places any blame for their condition on them. They probably already know and feel guilty, and they have enough to worry about without you reminding them.
Don’t Put Any Pressure
People deal with terminal illness in all different ways, so do not put any pressure on them to do something in particular. When someone is dying, it is their right to do it however they see fit. Don’t tell them what they “should” or “must” do regarding treatment or how they live their life.
Say You’ll Pray
If your loved one believes in God, say that you’ll pray for them. Such a simple promise is comforting.
If you are willing to do something to help, say so. It can be general, such as, “If there is anything I can do, please call.” Or you could offer something specific like, “If you need someone to go with you to a doctor’s appointment I am available Monday through Wednesday and would love to help.”
Don’t Be Selfish
Your note is for their benefit, not yours. So do not use it as an opportunity to tell them how their illness affects you. Don’t tell them it makes you angry or keeps you up at night with worry.
If you say you will do something, make sure you do it. Now is not the time to make empty promises.
Don’t send just one note and disappear. Send another soon after, or make a phone call. Show that your support and caring is genuine by keeping up with it.
- Terminal Illness (allaboutcounseling.com)