Traditional medical training focused on curing disease may not prepare clinicians to provide comfort and solace to their patients facing life-limiting illness. But dying patients and their families still need healing, and clinicians can actively facilitate it. We explore the clinician’s role in the healing journey through the lens of pediatric brain cancer. Specifically, we examine how clinicians can help affected families find their way from “focused hope” (which centers on cure) to “intrinsic hope,” which offers a more realistic and resilient emotional foundation as the child’s death approaches and letting go becomes essential. Drawing on their clinical experience and medical knowledge, clinicians can help families comprehend the lessons that their seriously ill child’s body has to teach, highlighting the importance of cherishing the present and creating new memories that outlast the disease. Clinicians can avoid the mindset of “nothing more can be done,” emphasizing that there is plenty to do in providing physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort. Clinicians can learn how to be “unconditionally present” for patients and families without immersing themselves in anguish and, eventually, how to help the family find freedom from despair and a full life that still honors the child’s memory.

 

Read more about finding hope and healing in the face of overwhelming devastation here.