Illness (Chronic & Terminal)

Coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis or a chronic illness is an emotional and stressful experience, often involving a range of feelings such as hope, fear, stress, anger, regret and grief. This may apply both to the patient and their family and friends.

CATEGORY: Life Events


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A study released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing in 2023 (5,500 people aged 16 to 85 years old during 2020-2021) showed that more than two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. In 2020–21 more than 3.4 million Australians sought help from a health care professional for their mental health.

The study is published at

Dealing with the diagnosis of a terminal illness or a chronic illness there are a wide range of reactions both the patient and their loved are likely to experience, and support form a trained professional in terms of the psychological impacts would be very helpful for most people.

Terminal Illness

The time after a terminal illness diagnosis can be intensely difficult, and is often full of unusual responsibilities and tasks on top of daily routine requirements. 

Negotiating all of this as well as the emotional impacts of the situation can be very hard to manage without help.

Chronic Illness

A chronic illness may have serious impacts on a person’s quality of life and there are likely losses associated with this. It will be important that the patient, and their loved ones who will also be impacted, can process their sense of loss and grief, and in the case of chronic illness, to perhaps learn new skills and new ways of coping and adjusting to their new reality.

Sometimes, both a terminal illness or a chronic one triggers additional emotional responses related to past, unresolved, losses and this further magnifies the difficulty and distress experienced by people.

In both types of situations, family members are often focused on looking after the physical and emotional needs of their loved one, but in fact they also need to  look after their own emotional well being during such a time. This is particularly true of people with a primary care giver role for the sick person and/or for others. 

Therapy | Treatment


Therapy can be helpful in assisting family and friends to cope with the illness of their loved one, and assisting the patient to come to terms with their diagnosis.  

Therapy can help people to understand the illness and prepare for their loss, provide emotional support, assist people in juggling and prioritising all the varied pressures and demands during this time, and can help family to plan for and organise their practical needs.

It is often easier for loved ones, especially the primary care giver, to process their own sense of devastation, loss and grief, stress and anxiety with a professional because this is a safe place to process the often significant and complex feelings of anger, hopelessness, sadness, resentment, fear and guilt that they may be feeling.

Similarly, it is sometimes easier for the patient to process their own complex emotions about their diagnosis away from their loved ones, at least initially, because they often feel like they might be burdening their loved ones if they speak about their fears, anger, sadness and so on to the people who are also trying to process the situation.