Monday, March 24, 2014

Ask the Coach: What to Write to a Friend with Terminal Illness

On a flight last month, I introduced myself to seatmates and eventually handed the mother-daughter travelers my condolence tips bookmarks.


“This is great,” the daughter said. Her elderly mother remarked, “I live in a retirement community and we lose residents from time to time. The manager sets up a nice tribute display, and I like to send a card to the family.” But their next question took an interesting turn. 

“We have a couple friends who are terminally ill; I’d like to send a card, but what should I say?”


Let’s explore this:
  • terminal illness is ‘the advanced stage of a disease with an unfavorable prognosis and no known cure.’ [source]
  • a prognosis of a number of months (or years) is not a scheduled departure date.
  • the outward condition (appearance) and functioning of a person with terminal illness will vary and may defy others’ expectations.
  • and, until you are dead, you are alive.

Blogger Michelle Devon writes with firsthand knowledge, in Dying to Live.

“Learning to live with a disease that is expected to result in your death absolutely does change your perspective. But as my blog title says, I’m not alive and dying. I’m dying to live!

Michelle shares some riveting thoughts on the tug-of-war between living to stay alive and being the person you want to be.


Every day, in countless scenarios, we have the opportunity to say thank you, I  appreciate you. Remember this: until you are dead, you are alive. Recognize the life, the day-by-day simple moments of the person you write to. Embrace the opportunity to say thank you, to ask for a story, to appreciate a sunrise, a funny pet, a song. Keep that in mind during your daily activities and when you write a note to anyone.   Here are some suggestions about writing to a friend with terminal illness:

Don’t Write
Do Write
>I’m gonna miss you so much!
>Get well soon!
>Hey, Steve Jobs lived a long time with his pancreatic cancer, so …
>Have you thought of: medical advice/legal  or tax advice
What are you going to do about your (special needs family member)
>Good riddance to that boring job!
>Are the kids finally doing some housework?
>CARE: How are you today?
>FEEL: I’m so sorry this has happened.
>ENCOURAGE: Take care of yourself.
>REMEMBER: I am thinking about you. In fact, I was just_____ and I remembered when __.
>ROUTINE: Did that last storm send (pet) under the bed?
>LISTEN: I would love to share a cup of tea sometime soon; I’m a good listener. By the way, my email is _____
>ADMIRE: I admire your courage and always have you in my prayers
>AFFECTION: Give my love & hugs to __.



Thank you for caring!



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