Thursday, July 2, 2015

Slate's Dear Prudence Gets a Letter About Notifying Friends and Family of a Terminal Diagnosis

Dear Prudence: Should I tell people I might be dying, or spare everyone the goodbye?:

A disease I’ve been dealing with for several years has taken a turn for the worse. I don’t have a terminal diagnosis yet but, depending upon upcoming tests and possible treatment, I could have a week, a month, six months. My physician brought up palliative care for the first time. Last winter one of my long-time friends died; I was terribly hurt that his wife failed to inform me he was even sick—I heard it through the grapevine. Upon consideration, I decided perhaps my friend had chosen to spare me (and himself) my despair and a tearful good-bye. Another friend told me when her husband was in hospice, his good friend Tom wept so much through a difficult final visit that afterward the dying man weakly said to his wife, “No more Tom.” Do I inform my long-time friends, particularly those whom I’ve loved deeply but who live far away, that I have one foot in the grave? If not, do I write a letter to each of them to be mailed at my death, explaining my decision and how much their friendship meant to me? 
I agree with Prudence that the letter-writer should trust his or her instincts and was glad to see she suggested resources like Lotsa Helping Hands.

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