Chapter 1: Myth: Nothing more can be done

Responding to hopelessness

The grief expert says
Dr. Chris MacKinnon provides guidance for when you encounter families who feel hopeless. (3:22)Video transcript

There’s nothing to be done. She's palliative and that’s that. – Family member

Recognize that when someone is dying, family members may experience hopelessness and despair. When confronted with these feelings, your job is to acknowledge and normalize their emotions and also to empower families to remain engaged and supportive.

Reframing hope

Having hope slip away is very difficult. At the point when you enter their lives, patients and families may have let go of many hopes and dreams, including hope for a cure and hope for more time. Some people will cling to hope until death. This is especially true for parents of a dying child. It can be helpful for families to reframe hope by focusing on what can be done for the patient in the moment.

Conversation Prompts

I know you hoped he’d regain consciousness so you could talk. That seems unlikely now. We can hope, though, that he hears your words and feels your presence. Is there anything you’d like to say to him right now? Or perhaps you’d like sit here beside him and hold his hand?

I know the situation is very difficult. There are still a lot of things we can do to help him feel comfortable and safe.