chapter  5
19 Pages

The terminally ill child: supporting the family anticipating loss

WithHazel Mackenzie

There can be few tasks of parenting more difficult than that of caring for a child who is known to be terminally ill. The diagnosis is, in itself, ‘an outrage against the natural order of things, disrupting our sense of purpose, our future promise’ (Judd 1989:3). Furthermore, Dorothy Whyte suggests that for parents, the loss of a child is ‘a threat to self since so much of self physically and emotionally is bound up in the life of the child’ (Whyte 1992:321). The impact of the diagnosis sweeps through the family, touching each member and changing the family irrevocably. It seems appropriate, therefore, that a chapter on the terminally ill child is included in a textbook whose subject matter is ‘family nursing’.