The Cruelty of False Hope In a Life-Threatening Situation

In my husband’s last days, I already knew there was no saving him. The doctors were giving little false hope in that if he did recover at all, it would be a very long road to recovery.

Friends and family members said I was being too negative, that he would be up doing his usual things in a very short time. They meant well but it did it not help, and it hurt deeply.

I tried to understand why people felt the need to thrust their sunny platitudes upon me.

I think they were either trying to help but didn’t know how, or they just didn’t want to put in any real concerted effort to help. Talking up the “brighter side” is something they could do easily, without getting emotionally involved or getting their hands dirty with practical matters.

Perhaps they don’t fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. You’re the one who has talked to the doctors and seen the solemn expression on their faces as they lay down the dismal facts and depressing prognosis.

These well-wishers haven’t been there during those darkest hours.

While you’re trying to come to terms with matters of life and death, your friends are bubbling over with positivity. Ordinarily, that’s a good thing. But, when the end was near, it just made me feel more alone. Since no one else seemed to understand.

Their false hopes also sometimes made me feel guilty for not reacting the same way they did. Maybe I should go in and talk to my husband’s unconscious body, trying to cheer him up and compel him to keep fighting. He might have been able to hear me.

But, his brain was so damaged by the stroke; there was very little chance he would have been able to make sense of what I was saying even if he did hear me.

Besides, I felt it was more important just to say, I’m here with you – for as long as you need me. And then to follow through by being there for him.

With a waiting room full of false gaiety, I stayed away except for the brief updates.

I spent my time getting real help from the people who truly understood. Who were they?

Some of them were doctors but mostly the nurses. They knew the situation better than anyone out there. They’re the ones trained to help patients and their loved ones get through the ordeal with the least amount of emotional pain possible.

There were also two friends who were really there for me. They offered real, practical help, like cleaning my house, buying groceries for my family or bringing me comfort items at the hospital. They didn’t give pep talks. They talked to me from a position of true caring and support.

And finally I realised: the waiting room was not a party I was hosting. I didn’t have to be sociable or listen to their crazy fantasies. I could rest in the love of those who really knew how to care.


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