Giving or having false hope is a discussion that becomes way personal when you’re the person charged with telling it like it is. In the face of odds that seem overwhelming, should you or shouldn’t you offer hope or be hopeful.
At life’s end, hope can cause turmoil and friction: when Liza’s single-mom friend was dying – but still hoped for a miracle – Liza was incensed: “She hasn’t acknowledged she’s dying. Until she can do that, I can’t be part of her support group.” Liza’s panic was more about her friend’s teenage daughter who, deceived by her mother’s hopeful outlook, also refused to recognize impending death. Liza’s assumption was that with hope ‘clouding’ realistic discussion, the daughter’s life would be in more of a shambles than need be and Liza would have to take care of her.
Hope can frustrating and exhausting, burdensome and sometimes even destructive: if you’re still hoping, how can there be final conversations satisfying the need for ‘closure’; how can arrangements be made, decisions addressed that, afterward, can divert dollars and time to lawyers and therapists.
A husband and children used the promise of hope to talk about plans for the next family vacation. So frustrated was their terminally ill mother that she screamed, ‘We’re never going to have another family vacation’. The family said they felt an unspoken tension lifted and their discussions shifted to their mother’s hopes for the family’s future.
When it comes to offering hope and hoping, whose wishes and whose circumstances are to be considered: the chronically and terminally ill or the living?
Watch and share this five minute video about the need for prophylactic end-of-life conversations. Laura Heldebrand, an ICU nurse tells her mother's story.
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