Dealing with a Child's Terminal Illness
How do you support a friend or loved one when they find out that their child has a terminal illness? What do you do? What do you say? Is there really anything that can give comfort when they are faced with what many parents fear most?
I served with an extraordinary woman not long ago. I counted her a dear friend. Her youngest son was having some difficulties and upon receiving the results of the test, discovered that their sweet little boy had a very serious illness. I will never forget her telling me that she didn’t feel strong enough to go through this trial. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. They had some ups and they had their share of downs. They were ultimately told that the doctors had done everything they knew how to do and to go home and enjoy the rest of their son’s life.
I know there were many tears shed. I am certain there were sleepless nights. There were prayers and fasts sent to heaven on their behalf. I watched her at the funeral for her sweet angel. She cried only a little as she walked into the building but something incredible happened as she stepped up to the microphone to speak. I saw a strength come over her that she had developed over the entire experience. She smiled genuinely and her face radiated joy. She testified of the Savior’s reality and His closeness during such a difficult time.
I recalled her words from the beginning and was privileged to witness the miracle of the Lord’s constant support. She was changed. She looked forward to the promises of the Savior, knowing that her family was sealed together for eternity.
Sometimes we believe that there is no way to combat the heartache we feel. We may feel powerless and that disabling fear can either draw us closer to the Savior’s comfort or send us into a frenzy of poor choices as we try to cope with our sorrow.
Mourning is an essential part of dealing with any kind of loss. Giving oneself time to grieve is important but so is doing your best to rely on the Savior who has power to heal and comfort. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “Death separates the spirit and the body which are the soul of man. That separation evokes pangs of sorrow and shock among those left behind. The hurt is real. Only its intensity varies. Some doors are heavier than others. The sense of tragedy may be related to age. Generally, the younger the victim, the greater the grief.” Further into his talk, he teaches, “We need not look upon death as an enemy. With full understanding and preparation, faith supplants fear. Hope displaces despair. The Lord said, “Fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.” (D&C 101:36.) He bestowed this gift: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.) 1
I am certain there are times when the darkness and despair are overwhelming, when we do not have the strength to watch our loved one’s suffering one more day. I also know that the Savior came to remedy what we could not do for ourselves. Let the hope of having an eternal family through temple covenants be a beacon of light to hold onto through the violent storm of loss.
1 “Doors of Death”, Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 1992 General Conference