Establishing Support Systems During Illness

Well before this time in your life, you have established a support system consisting of family, friends, and groups in which you are active.  Your children also benefit from having a support system, both as an extension of yours and on their own.

As your illness progresses, it will be difficult for you to be the main source of support for your children.  Accept help from others for yourself and for your family.  Bringing together a strong team shows the children that they will be cared for after your death.  When you allow others to take on more responsibility for some aspects of the family’s well-being, you help build the ongoing support system that your children will need.  Letting go in this way might make you feel sad sometimes, but you could also choose to feel proud of how well you are transitioning your children into a safe and secure future.

Who makes up your support system?  You may have a large circle of people who are with you throughout this difficult time.  On the other hand, perhaps you have a small but close-knit circle of supporters.  It’s important to recognize all of your potential sources of support.  Your caregiving network may include anyone who is involved with you and your family.  Be open to the love that will come to you from relatives, friends, neighbors, and the other people who are involved in caring for and supporting you and your family during this difficult time.

As a parent, you feel a deep need to take care of your family.  The reality is that as your illness progresses it will become harder for you to take care of others.  You will need to accept care from them.  This can be hard to get used to.

Some people seek support from outside sources, whereas others prefer to stay among family and friends.  Many people are very private and do not like to speak to “strangers” about personal matters.  These people may feel more comfortable talking to someone they enjoy spending time with such as a close friend or relative.  Only you can make this personal choice.  Fortunately, many options are available.

There are community organizations, faith groups, and professionals who are dedicated to assisting people in making these difficult decisions.  There are many reading materials, websites, and other resources to help you get through what lies ahead.

Many people find great emotional and spiritual hope and support from their choice of faith, whatever it may be.  Most professional clergy have received special training from their seminaries and religious schools to equip them with the tools necessary to help them help others through difficult times.[1] These professional clergy should be seen as supportive partners in patient care.  Clergy can help families plan funeral and memorial services.  They also follow up with families, visiting individuals in their homes both before and after your death.  Temples and houses of worship provide families with places where family and friends can gather.

You may wish to find a counselor or therapist who specializes in bereavement and end-of-life care.  Others may find solace in community support groups composed of people who are going through many of the same experiences.  Support groups are available in most areas, primarily through faith communities, hospitals, community programs, and grief centers.  You may also wish to consider online support groups.  They can be very helpful and reassuring sources of comfort and information.  Please refer to the section entitled “Places to Turn for Help” at the end of this book for more information on how to find help in your area.

Perhaps you, yourself, do not feel the need to seek outside support, but a family member or a friend does.  There are many different sources for everyone seeking comfort as they go through this difficult time.

[1] For information about the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), a multicultural, multifaith organization, visit

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