Handling news that someone’s dying

Today started so wonderfully. After spending great fellowship with terrific people at my church, I came home and chatted with my mom. Then, I made spontaneous plans to have a fantastic lunch with my sweetie pie of a husband. The sun was shining; everything was under control, and life felt really good. Then the phone rang. Suddenly, the day shifted, and I was faced with handling the news that someone was dying. I was soon to find myself in a Christian struggle.

Isn’t it funny how one conversation can completely turn your day upside down? Indeed, this phone call was one of those. It brought the kind of bad news that feels like a punch in the belly from a monstrous prize fighter.

Handling sudden bad news can feel like a tidal wave crashing over me, leaving me disoriented and overwhelmed. In that initial moment of shock, it’s natural to be flooded with a mix of emotions, from disbelief to sadness or even anger.

Yet, I’ve come to realize that it’s during these challenging moments that my inner strength and resilience truly shine. Where do I get it? I get it from running to the Lord and recalling His Words in scripture.

What was the bad news? Well, the title [handling news that someone is dying] should give it away.

Getting sudden bad news can be incredibly difficult for several reasons:

  1. The Shock and Emotional “Belly Punch”: Sudden bad news often catches us off guard, leading to an initial state of shock and disbelief. The emotional impact can be overwhelming as we grapple with feelings of fear, sadness, anger, or confusion. Coping with these intense emotions while trying to process the news can be INTENSE!

  2. Feelings of helplessness: Bad news can bring a sense of uncertainty and a loss of control over our lives. It disrupts our plans and can create feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness. The unknown future that bad news often presents can be particularly unsettling and difficult to navigate.

  3. It “messes” with our lives: Sudden bad news often requires us to adapt to a new reality or circumstances we hadn’t anticipated. Whether it’s a health diagnosis, a financial setback, or a personal loss, adjusting to these changes can be a complex and difficult process. It may involve making tough decisions and facing new challenges.

Receiving sudden bad news can be an incredibly challenging experience, filled with shock, emotional impact, uncertainty, and a sense of loss of control. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed- I know I did.

I felt so lost and hurt after hearing the news. I was like handling news that someone is dying is the hardest thing EVER! Of course, it was not, but it threw me for a loop and broke my heart into a million pieces.

If you are reading this and going through this right now, remember to be kind to yourself as you process and cope with the situation.

Allow yourself to feel the hurt and process the pain. Don’t ignore it. Don’t act as though it does not hurt. Eventually, feelings rise to the surface of our lives. Might as well feel it when you first feel it rather than having it surface when you least expect it.

I couldn’t believe she was telling me this.

My sweet neighbor advised me she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Even typing the words makes my heart ache.

She’s such a nice older lady who lives across the street. She recently buried her husband due to this terrible disease, and now she (and her family) has this fresh, painful hurdle ahead of them. Unimaginable.

I instantly sobbed as she explained the details of the situation. It was bad.

Want to hear something odd? Just the other day, I thought about how we can sometimes pray selfish prayers. I wondered if praying for healing is appropriate when someone is ready to transition home. This topic just came to my mind for no apparent reason. I remember distinctly asking the Holy Spirit, “Are selfish prayers ok?”

At about the same time, my mind went to scripture.

“Hmmm…what selfish prayers are in scripture?”

I knew there had to be lots. Surely, people would ask God for healing or specific victories for personal reasons.

Determined to research once I stopped the car, a few instances came instantly to my mind. For one, the Centurion who loved his servant was one. The man whose daughter died was another. Then, there was the mother whose son had passed, and the prophet resurrected him. I know of many more.

Who is to say whether selfish prayers are right or wrong?

I think most requests and miracles in the Bible resulted from someone’s selfish prayers. But, in His infinite wisdom, God uses those cases to show the world just how mighty He is.

Well, I have a selfish request.

I’m going to ask God to keep my neighbor on this side of heaven because I love her.

I want her to see her grandchildren grow. I want her children to have a respite from grief. I want to sit on the deck for our chats.

People of strong faith can make handling news that someone is dying a bit easier (as if they should have to think about that.

During that conversation with her, she said something that left a permanent imprint in my spirit. I’ll never forget if she continues to live on earth or moves to heaven.

She said, “Teri, I have peace. I believe in God, and I know there is a heaven. I’m really OK”.

Her comments jarred me a bit. We don’t hear someone with a death diagnosis respond this way.

A person with such an analysis would be more apt to pray for healing so their desires could come to pass. But she’s convinced of heaven and a loving, adoring Savior ready to embrace her on the other side.

Her faith is inspiring. I think God is pleased with her response.

It’s easy to forget heaven is a precious promise for those who love the Lord. Sometimes, we can be so earthly-minded that we forget our children, friends, and husbands are just placeholders in our lives. The real joy, the real paradise, is with the Lord.

Also, I repeat. Heaven is a promise – not a goal. That work is done in Christ. If you relinquish your life to Him, it’s yours. That makes handling news that someone is dying a lot easier, doesn’t it?

Question: Do we sometimes lose our perspective when we think of death from this life?

Either way, I’m going to pray God heals my neighbor and restores her health for His name’s sake. She has grandchildren, and I know she wants to see them grow.

Whether God decides to heal her on this side of heaven or the other, He will heal and take wonderful care of my sweet neighbor and friend.

But, my selfish prayer [and thank God he said I could make it known to Him] is that she will live to see many more years in health and even some great-grandchildren one day. If this request aligns with His will, imagine the glory of her testimony! Please say a prayer for her today.

Cancer is no match for God, and He should have work for her to do on this side.

If you are dealing with this. Check out this article for 5 ways to cope with bad news.

Update:  God did heal her.  He did in heaven.  Heaven is a bit sweeter because yet another person I love is there.  I’ll see you soon enough, Miss Jean. I love you.

Tips for handling news that someone is dying
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