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End-of-Life Issues: Emotions and Relationships

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Many people with metastatic breast cancer find themselves thinking about the end of life. Needless to say, these thoughts can raise difficult emotions, both for you and the relatives and friends who care about you. It's really hard to accept saying goodbye to the life you’ve built and the people you love. There is a natural tendency to shy away from open and honest conversation about death — even doctors aren’t always comfortable talking about it. But there are so many benefits to having these conversations now:

  • You’re likely to feel more in control of what’s happening.
  • Your family, friends, and healthcare team will know what you want, now and moving forward.
  • Many people find that airing their feelings and having plans in place actually reduces anxiety and brings a sense of peace.

This section provides some tools to manage the emotions and relationship changes that many people experience when they start talking about the end of life. If you’re not ready to read this material, that’s okay. For many, it can feel overwhelming to sit with these feelings. Ask your doctor or hospital social worker about resources — a therapist, clergy, or support group, for instance — that can provide emotional support.

On the following pages, you can read more about:

The expert for this section is Kelly Grosklags, LICSW, BCD. Kelly is a licensed clinical social worker and a board-certified diplomat in clinical social work. She also earned a fellowship in grief counseling from the American Academy of Health Care Professionals. Kelly speaks frequently about end-of-life issues, including care, grief, and loss, both in person and on her website, Conversations With Kelly, as well as her Facebook page. You can choose “Like” on her Facebook page to receive regular updates and opportunities for interaction. Kelly is also the author of the book A Comforted Heart: An oncology psychotherapist's perspective on finding meaning and hope during illness and loss.

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