Coping with a life-threatening illness

Coping with life-threatening illnesses is different for every individual involved. It affects the patient, as well as the family. Those diagnosed with an illness are often faced with many emotions including anxiety and guilt.  In an attempt to deal with these emotions, people learn to cope. Some people develop defense mechanisms and others actually use coping strategies. In addition, there are various types of awareness.


The topic of dealing with life-threatening illness especially resonates with me because my uncle just went through this painful process. He died last week of cancer, and I was able to see the many aspects of this process we discussed in class.


            My uncle experienced an open awareness because his terminal diagnosis was acknowledged and discussed. Although it was difficult for the rest of the family, it wasn’t ignored. This is somewhat unusual because most people refuse to openly discuss the condition. The best known model of coping is Kubler-Ross’s five stage model. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This model is illustrated in the video above. Although this is a great representation of the process, I can say my uncle did not follow this model exactly. Although my uncle experienced anger and depression, he never denied his fate. He was accepting of his condition and decided to make the most of his time.


            Although dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, the Kubler-Ross model focuses on the individual with the condition. I found this to be interesting because most of the time we tend to focus on how it affects others. At least I know I do. I think this is because when we come up with a hypothetical situation like this, we avoid putting ourselves in the patient’s shoes. For example, when we were learning about life-threatening illnesses in class, I would think about someone I know being diagnosed, not myself. This relates back to the idea that we are a death denying culture.





One thought on “Coping with a life-threatening illness

  1. Sorry to hear about your lose. I would imagine that the positive thing to take from this is that he maintained an open awareness about his situation. If you don’t mind me asking how was to see him go through the stages. Did he maintain hope during the process like we talked about in class. Which stage do you think was the biggest struggle for him and which one did he cope with for a lack of better term the easiest. I agree that we often look at how the patients condition affects others rather then the patient it self. Something we should all take into serious consideration.

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