“Loving conversations – sharing many happy memories to comfort our sadness”

As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week   (9-15 May), we are sharing expert opinions on having “the big conversation” around end of life wishes.

Kathy Seddon cared for her sister Pat through terminal cancer. As part of the Marie Curie Expert Voices Group, Kathy uses her experiences to help us to improve and develop our services. We asked her how she and Pat discussed Pat’s illness.

Two girls at a 1950s street party
Kathy with her big sister Pat at a street party for the Queen’s coronation

Reassuring

“My beloved sister Pat received a terminal diagnosis about a month before she died. She had some worries that she should have done more to ‘fight’. She was reassured by a wonderful palliative care doctor that this was not the case.

“I know from close relatives that she was worried about how I would cope, as she had been there all my life. She didn’t talk about this with me, though we did discuss support for my brother-in-law when she was no longer there.

“Pat was a very intelligent woman with an inner calm. There was no anger, despair, regret or anything to make those who loved her unhappy. To the last she tried to ease their loss.”

Remembering

“Each day we shared her favourite French coffee and talked about our shared history. The most important thing for us was to relive the many joyful and funny family memories.

“We laughed together and talked about how much she would be missed. We knew that the memories would become part of our family story, so future generations would know her vividly and with love. The immense loneliness that would follow her death was a worry to her, but she accepted that we would support each other.

“She assumed (correctly) that her funeral and other arrangements would follow the normal Catholic burial practices. This was a given in her mind. She was a very loving lady and had our best interests as her top priority.”

Pat died at home in 2013, supported by wonderful nurses in Gwent.”

Reinforcing

“Talking with other carers always highlights that it’s essential the person who is dying remains an individual and not just a patient. It is important to share day-to-day events and stories with them so they are still included and can continue to be part of everyone’s lives.

“The burden of care needs to be made as light as possible so that there is space to continue close relationships. They must be able to complain if they need to and share their love with those who love them.”

Our website includes advice and support around being there for someone with a terminal illness, a range of resources for bereaved family and friends, and information about financial matters.