I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.

How to face death and find hope

A Lone Balloon Drifts Near the Foothills of Albuquerque, N.M.

Look at the bright side … this too shall pass … keep the faith.

I write a lot of articles about hanging in when life gets tough. Endurance is a gift. If you can just will yourself to outlast the pain, heartache, discouragement, loneliness, confusion, and grief life throws your way, eventually things will get better. Where there is life, there is hope.

Several years ago, I worked with a woman in her 40s who’d always wanted to find her soul mate. She finally met “Mr. Right,” the two were engaged to marry and planning their wedding … when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He left her to fight her cancer battle and die alone. A few days ago I learned of a similar situation, and it brought home the reality that some mountains cannot be moved and cannot be scaled. And some things will not get better in this lifetime. So how can you find comfort when all really is lost?

It’s not a situation I’ve had to face. But here’s what I’ve learned from others who’ve seemed to find a measure of peace in their final days:

• Let go.  Time now is too precious to spend on anger or vengeance for those who can’t support you and aren’t who you believed they would be. Don’t let them poison your final months, days, and hours. It’s not about them; it’s about you and the people still with you. Things have a way of working out as they should. Long after your pain ends, those who disappointed or took advantage of you will have to live with the consequences of their actions. You won’t be there to see it, but trust that it will happen. Since closing those wounds can’t always be accomplished at the snap of a finger, talk to your caretakers. Ask about anti-anxiety medication that can help ease these situations from your mind.

• Zero in.  The Big Picture doesn’t matter anymore. Your world has shrunk to a small circle of the people you love most. Spend time and energy only on those who bring you joy and comfort. This is the end of the fair. You know … the park is about to close and you don’t want to leave with any unused tickets in your wallet—or in this case, any unspoken words in trapped in the back of your throat. Tell the people who matter how much they matter and why. Share happy memories with old friends, watch your favorite cartoons, sing your favorite songs. And laugh as much as you can. Make sure everyone can remember the sound of your laughter.

• Embrace beliefs.  If spiritual beliefs sustained you in life, let them sustain you now—especially if they include positive views of the afterlife. They can help ease your fears and make you feel this is a beginning rather than an ending. If your faith has long been a source of comfort, nothing can be gained by second-guessing yourself at this late hour. Try to relax and embrace the words of comfort offered by those who’ve accompanied you on your spiritual journey.

• Pay forward.  Many of the people I’ve known who seemed to pass with the most peace spent their last days trying to have a positive influence on those around them. Some tried to share their faith, others to calm the loved ones they’d leave behind, and still others to demonstrate to those following on the same path that there was no reason to be afraid. Focusing on helping others can distract you from your own fear and give you a positive outlet for any negative energy.

• Have faith.  Although your journey will end, life will go on … and so will the people you’re leaving behind. No matter how much you want to ensure they’ll be protected, remain true to your values, and follow the path you’ve set for them, you can’t. But take heart in knowing that no matter how young, how shattered, how vulnerable they are in this moment, they will find a way to outlast the pain, heartache, discouragement, loneliness, confusion, and grief life is throwing their way. And eventually things will get better. Where there is life, there is hope.

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