Dying and emotions - Maggie's Centres

Dying and emotions


You may be finding out about living with dying for yourself, or because someone close to you has advanced cancer.  This can feel an emotional time - but it helps to know what support is available.

Living with dying can be painful to consider.  It may begin at the point you are told that the cancer can no longer be cured - or if you or someone you care about is entering the last months or  weeks of the illness.  Close family and friends may be upset too, and find it difficult to talk about dying with you.

Find out more from Maggie’s about the emotional, practical, and financial aspects of living with dying. It is an important part of helping you live your life to the full, for as long as possible, knowing that practical matters have been discussed and are in place.

You may be finding out about living with dying for yourself, or because someone close to you has advanced cancer.  This can feel an emotional time - but it helps to know what support is available.

‘Living with dying’ explained

Living with dying may begin at the point you are told that the cancer can no longer be cured.  Others define it as the time you are entering the last months or weeks of the illness. The idea that life is now limited can be painful to consider. 

It can make the distant fact that we all die sometime seem more real, and learning to live with that reality can feel daunting.  If you’re the carer of someone who is living with a limited prognosis, you may be concerned about how you might cope, practically and emotionally.

Your feelings

Focusing on living, whilst knowing that time is shorter than planned, can give a mixture of emotions. It may not seem real, and many people cope by living day to day, without trying to think of the uncertainty of the future.  

At other times, you may feel immense sadness, and experience emotional and spiritual pain. You may feel anxious, angry and helpless.  It can be a time of reflection, on relationships, the meaning of life, and worries about how things may be towards the end.  Whether you’re the person with cancer or a close family member/carer - you may find it difficult to talk about the feelings you’re experiencing, especially to each other.

It may seem a lonely time, if the feelings are kept to yourself.  Talking with others can create closeness and help share concerns.  It’s a time to say the things that are important to you all. 

It’s natural to feel sad - and in a way, it is different to classic depression. However, depression can be part of living with dying, and you can seek help and support to help deal with those feelings. It can help to explain how you feel, and explore the bigger issues that the situation has raised for you. Choose someone you feel comfortable with. This may be your family and friends, your GP, a trusted counsellor,  or with others who understand what you’re going through.  

Practical matters

There are a number of things that can be done, to help feel more secure and in control. 

Practically, you and your family may want to make sure that financial affairs are sorted, as well as thinking about where you would wish to be cared as your cancer progresses.  

It may be that you still have considerable time left. With advanced cancer, many treatments help hold back and shrink cancer tumours, and relieve symptoms.  However, being organised early on, can mean that you can focus on living.

You will find more information, in our sections on ‘Living with advanced cancer’, Palliative care and cancer, End of life care, and wills and legacies.

How Maggie’s can help?

Maggie’s Centres can help in many ways. Maggie’s work with the principle that we shouldn’t lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.  You can receive practical help with finances from our benefits advisors, and talk through the emotional impact of your prognosis with our cancer support specialists.  Family support is available, and we also have workshops, support groups and drop in sessions aimed at helping you through this difficult time.  You can find out more in  our  ‘support for carers’ section


What now?

Reading this page may have raised lots of difficult thoughts and emotions for you, visit your local Maggie's centre or join in our online community to talk with our cancer support specialists and others in similar situations. 

Browse through the links and blogs on this page  to find out more about living with dying


Find a centre

To find your nearest Maggie's centre, enter your postcode or town below.

Get in touch

Stay up to date with our news and fundraising by signing up for our newsletter.
Sign up