Emotional-Spiritual Issues in Serious Illness

As we face the possibility that we are in the last chapter of our lives, our priorities suddenly change.

Life’s details may fade to the background, and we may find ourselves looking at its deeper meanings. Old conflicts pale in importance, and the desire to resolve difficulties with family relationships often comes to the fore. Serious, terminal illness presents an opportunity to evaluate one’s life. People often reflect upon their accomplishments and even humbly acknowledge their regrets.

As life nears its close and we look to our own or our loved one’s meaning of life, it may be easy to see only the good or the bad, or even to simply see death and nothing else in our sight. In Jesus Christ, there is a better way. Regardless of our situation, we can look to Jesus who does not merely “sympathize” with us from a distance, but instead shares in the suffering we endure.

Like us, Jesus rejoiced in many of life’s blessings: friends, family, and celebrations spent with them. But he also shared in the suffering this body and life can bring: conflict with His earthly family, mourning over the loss of a beloved friend, and even physical suffering and death. But, in this same Jesus, we see Him rise from death, conquering even the grave, to a new and perfected life free of suffering and pain. This Resurrection is our hope as well; in His death and Resurrection, we have become “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, English Standard Version)

Death and dying are difficult to discuss and even more challenging to endure. Whether facing one’s own death or the death of a loved one, all persons involved are seeking to find hope amidst the despair, comfort in the midst of grief and pain, and life in the face of death. For the Christian, hope and Life rest in Christ. And no one, whether terminal illness or death itself, can take Him away.

Caring for someone with a serious illness brings up a lot of feelings. For the person who is ill. But also for family members.

Spiritual questions Your spirituality may be challenged. At times you or your relative may feel very lost. At other times, you may feel more alive and connected. Such is the nature of a serious illness.

Family conflict Family relationships often fall apart at times like this. Old rivalries may reappear. You may all need to look deep in your hearts to find gratitude, strength, and forgiveness.

Grief and hope Families often experience feelings of grief. A kind of sadness that comes before an expected loss. You may also struggle to find hope. Rest assured. Even in the shadow of an incurable illness, there are times of great joy and things to look forward to.

Mourning your loss And at some point, your family will be faced with the grief that comes from mourning. There is no set timetable and no “right way” to grieve. Be tender with yourself. And with others. Everyone mourns in their own manner. How you handle it is exactly the right way for you.