How To Manage My Thoughts and Feelings About My Child Dying From Cancer


Being told your child is not going to recover from cancer is incredibly difficult. You may be overwhelmed by all sorts of thoughts and feelings and fears about your child dying.   

Managing your thoughts and feelings about your child dying 

There is no right or wrong way to feel right now. When you find out your child is likely to die soon some of the emotions you felt when you first found out about their cancer may come back. You may also experience new emotions, like hopelessness, unfairness or despair or intense anger (with their treatment team, the whole world, God …). 

All of these reactions and feelings are normal, but they don’t help much and unfortunately won’t change the sad reality you are now facing.  

Some people experience what’s called “anticipatory grief” - grief you feel when you are expecting the death of someone close to you. You may feel sad, anxious and worried about what life might be like after they die and how you will cope without them.   

You may feel like you need to get a handle on your grief and be strong for your family and child. The truth is, this is a situation no parent ever wants to be in, and with that comes a lot of strong emotions. You don’t need to be strong all the time in front of your children. Give yourself permission to show them your pain and tears, in doing so, you give them the space to show you theirs. The key in all of this is to remain in your role as parent, the ultimate comforter and carer of your child. 

If you are finding it difficult to provide that comfort and care for your child due to your own grief, take a few moments to yourself, speak with a trusted loved one while you gather your bearings, and return back to your child once you feel more contained. Your children will watch your reactions and behaviours closely to learn how to cope.  

Knowing your child may die soon gives you and your family time to prepare for their death, to say what you want to say and to make memories.  

Get support 

This is a sad time and difficult issue to cope with. Give yourself some time and space to work through your thoughts and feelings. It might help to talk to a friend, or check in to our online parent community to see how other people in your situation have managed.  

On top of dealing with your own feelings about your child dying, you may have to talk to your other children and other family members and friends about it. This can be difficult and add to your distress.  

If you need support, talk to your GP, the social worker at the hospital or call CanTeen on 1800 835 932.

For a full list of Parenting through Cancer resources click here