Coping with the news that you’re dying
If you have been told that you are approaching the end of your life, it is natural to have lots of different emotions. Find out about the emotional support available.
What's in the 'End of life care' section?
- End of life care for pancreatic cancer
- Coping with the news that you’re dying
- Talking about dying
- Care towards end of life
- Where to receive care
- Symptoms towards end of life
- Information for families at the end of life
- Signs that the end of life may be near
- When someone with pancreatic cancer dies
- Coping with loss
- Further information and support
You may feel shocked, angry, frightened, sad or numb. And you may be worrying about what will happen to you over the coming months and weeks, and how you and your family and friends will cope.
Pancreatic cancer can grow and spread quickly. You may feel you haven’t had much time, if any, to come to terms with being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer before being told that you may only have a few months or weeks to live.
You are not alone, and it is ok to ask for help. There are people who can support you. Your family may also need help dealing with how they are feeling, and the support we mention in this section is available for them too.
Talking to family and friends about how you are feeling can be comforting. These can be difficult conversations, and some people find it easier to talk to people outside their family or friends.
You can talk to a member of your healthcare team, who will be able to provide emotional support as well as medical care. You may see a palliative care team, who can provide emotional support to you and your family.
You can talk to someone about your beliefs or spirituality. Some people find it helpful to speak to a chaplain who will have links to all faith groups, or a spiritual advisor, either religious or non-religious. Most hospitals and hospices will have a chaplaincy.
Hospices and local cancer centres may provide free emotional support. For example, they may run group support sessions where you can meet other people with cancer. Your GP, nurse or medical team should know about any services that are available locally.
Some people find it helpful to talk to a counsellor. Counselling gives you a safe place to come to terms with your feelings and find ways to cope. It’s confidential, so you can be honest about how you feel. Your local hospice or hospital may offer counselling, and some hospices have counsellors who can visit you at home. Speak to your GP or nurse about what counselling is available.
“My partner and I didn’t talk much about his feelings about the future, as we preferred to live in the here and now. But he found talking to a counsellor a huge help.”
How long do I have left to live?
You may want to know how long you have left to live, or what will happen as you approach the end of your life. If you do want to know more, speak to your doctor or nurse. It can be difficult for doctors to give you a clear timescale, but they may be able to give you some information about your situation. Some people prefer not to know and to live each day as it comes. The doctors and nurses will respect this decision.
You may want to discuss things with your family as they might want different information from you. If you wish, you can give your doctors and nurses permission to speak to your family and answer their questions without you being there.
Questions to ask your healthcare team
- Who can I talk to about my worries?
- What support is there to help me cope emotionally?
- How can a counsellor help? Can you refer me to one?
- What local services can help?
- How long do I have to live?
- How will I know when I only have a few weeks or days to live?
More information and support
- Marie Curie offer practical information and emotional support for people at the end of life.
- Maggie’s Centres provide free support to people with cancer and their families.
- You can search for counsellors on the The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website, including counsellors who specialise in cancer.
- The Samaritans offer a safe place for you to talk at any time about anything that’s worrying you. You don’t have to feel suicidal to contact them.
Published April 2021
Review date April 2023