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End of Life

There are few things more certain than the fact that each of us will die some day, and it is common that children become curious about this part of life. Every adult should be prepared to answer the normal developmental questions children pose about the possibility of a parent dying and what would happen if this occurred. Just like healthy parents, parents living with cancer are at risk of unanticipated accidents or medical events unrelated to the cancer.

Preparing for the future

End-of-life planning, therefore, is an important aspect of being a loving parent. Mindfully creating materials for children that communicate how well-known and loved they are—such as letters, parenting journals, family videos, and annotated photo albums—provides valuable legacies. This is true whether a parent lives to see children into adulthood or dies when they are still young. The recommendations in this section are the same for healthy parents as for parents living with cancer. Sometimes, living with a life-threatening illness stirs up so much emotion for parents that they avoid addressing painful end-of-life concerns, which they would be willing to address if healthy.

By thinking about end-of-life planning as like taking an umbrella in case it rains, you can provide your children with important, lasting reminders of how much love and care you truly feel for them, and hopefully find that you feel better knowing this planning has been done. Just as carrying an umbrella does not make it rain, end-of-life planning does not mean you have given up hope. It is just reassuring to know that you have a shelter and a plan should the unexpected happen.