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Terminally-Ill Young Woman Called Out For Refusing To Tell Her Estranged Family She’s Dying

Ill young woman looking out the window
milanvirijevic/Getty Images

Fortunately, not everyone has been in a situation where they had to accept one of their loved one’s end-of-life plans.

But for those who have, it can be difficult to accept their loved one’s choice when they want something else for them, confided the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Diagnosed as terminally ill at a young age, Redditor throwaway_3957274 made all of her end-of-life plans but decided not to include her estranged family in those plans.

But when her closest friends questioned if she was making the right decision, the Original Poster (OP) questioned if she was being too harsh.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for not telling my family that I’m terminally ill?”

The OP was finalizing her end-of-life plans.

“It’s a really complicated situation, so forgive me if I have to leave some vague stuff for space. To preface, this is a definite when-not-if situation, I’m working things out with an end-of-life counselor and such, and it is what it is.”

“I (28 Female) have been NC (no contact) with my family for most of my adult years. My dad died when I was 9 (ironically of the same condition).”

“My mom remarried pretty quickly and tried to force a blended family situation, complete with trying to make me call my step-dad dad and making all the kids mad with that ‘we don’t do step in this family, you’re all just siblings’ thing and other bulls**t.”

“It backfired spectacularly. I got the brunt of it because I was the oldest and the most vocal about pushing back, so my teen years were one giant argument, and I went to NC as soon as I could move out.”

The OP later agreed to some contact, but with limitations.

“I agreed to LC (low contact) a year ago after my mom apologized for trying to force me to accept my stepdad as my dad and started trying to repair the relationship, but I keep my distance.”

“Most of my step-siblings also went LC with them, so I think my mom and step-dad have realized how badly they messed up and are trying not to be lonely old people now.”

“Since my diagnosis was confirmed, I’ve been thinking about what I want my last year or two max to look like, and honestly, I don’t see my family being a part of that.”

“I don’t want to deal with them trying to process rapidly all the old bulls**t before I go, and there are no loose ends I want to wrap up with them.”

“I also want people to remember me like I am now and not what I’m going to be like at the end.”

“So my plan is to just not tell them, enjoy what time I have left to be active, and then let my POA person handle who gets to know what and when afterward. Ideally, my family will find out after I’m gone to avoid an irritating deathbed scene.”

“I also don’t want them interfering in my end-of-life care, because my mom has very different religious opinions on things than I do.”

But the OP’s friends made her doubtful.

“I mentioned this to some friends recently and they were really disturbed by it because I would be robbing my family of the chance for closure and making amends while it’s still possible.”

“They said it will probably hurt them to know I kept something this big from them in a way that will make the grieving worse.”

“One friend, in particular, found it really upsetting and told me how awful it was to find out that her brother died suddenly instead of being able to deal with it ahead of time.”

“So, I feel like a bit of an AH now for maybe making things harder after I’m gone, but also, I still kind of don’t want the hassle.”


Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some were supportive of what would bring the OP the most comfort for the rest of her life.

“I’m so sorry for your diagnosis. Death is something that comes for us all, but to know so young that you have limited time is daunting, to say the least.”


“This is your life and your death. You get to choose who you share it with. Be happy in your time remaining. Keep doors open, but don’t invite drama.” – Reasonable-Whole5745

“NTA. First, let me extend my sympathies to you. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this situation while you should be enjoying(as much as possible) the things you’d like to do.”

“I understand your friends’ concern about your family having to deal so abruptly with your passing but this isn’t about your family, sweetie. It’s about you and how you CHOOSE to spend your last amount of time.”

“And it does worry me that if your religious mother finds out about your upcoming death she may indeed try to stymie your wishes. If you don’t wish to let them know then don’t. If your friends are good friends they’ll understand and acquiesce to your wishes. Good luck, sweetie.” – Debjohnson23

“It sounds kinda f**ked up, but NTA. They have to make amends the best way they can.”

“I will say at least go see them a few times just to give them some good moments with you but you don’t have to tell them it’s your personal choice.” – Masterillya

“NTA. You can face your world ending in any way that makes you the most comfortable to do so. It’s not about anyone else but you.”

“Your family being high conflict/disturbance just means you need to set up your power of attorney now and arrangements of what you want to happen, so no one can override your wishes when you are at your most weakness and unable to advocate for yourself.”

“You need to do it now while you are able and of sound mind, so it then can’t be contested as well.”

“Then you have the time left to enjoy how your life will go. It would be a nice thing if you were able to write an individual letter to each of your family and step-family members, or one complete one to give them closure after you are gone, but if that’s too stressful, then don’t.” – gemma156


“If they wanted to make amends they had years before now to do it. Now it would be them selfishly trying to ease their guilt.”

“I wouldn’t tell them anything either, especially for the religious pushers. You are doing right by YOU. you are the ONLY one that matters right now.”

“I am so sorry you are going through this. Those aren’t the right words to convey how I feel but there really are no words for this situation. do all that you can so you can spend your days as peaceful as you can.” – coolbeenz68

Others agreed the OP needed to prioritize her needs at this time.

“NTA. You have every right to hold firm to your boundaries. This is your life, and you have agency over who has access to you both in good times and in hard times.”

“You don’t owe your family any explanations and their closure is not your responsibility. Give yourself grace and wish you the best.” – edl0321

“NTA. With a terminal illness you must prioritize what YOU want. If you have no contact with your family, I can understand your reluctance to involve them at the most critical time of your life.”

“Really, ‘family’ can be anyone with whom you are close and feel confident to share intimacies and triumphs of life. Family doesn’t have to include blood relatives. Right now, I say it’s time to be selfish and do what makes you happy.” – j4ckb1ng


“Don’t cave to the pressure. Your life is your own, and you have the luxury of knowing how much time you have left. Live it how you want. If that means upsetting some people you have already distanced yourself from, then so be it. Again, it’s your life to live and die.”

“I imagine that the friends pressuring you, have decent relationships with their family, and if that is the case, they’re coming from a perspective that isn’t capable of understanding yours.”

“Personally, I come from a point of view like that of your own, in that, I wouldn’t want to deal with everyone else’s feelings regarding the end of my life, with the caveat that I would actually find some mild enjoyment in knowing that I deprived my mother of the chance to reconcile, as the last sort of ‘f**k you.'” – Itwasprettystupid


“You don’t owe other people closure and amends should be made of someone’s own volition, not because of guilt from a medical diagnosis.”

“I am sorry you are going through this. Enjoy the time you can, and may you get as much peace as possible as you proceed through this process.” – Odd-End-1405

“NTA. It’s your life and your end of life. You owe nobody anything at all.”

“You sound like you’ve already been making your plans and wishes known that you’re happy and comfortable with, and that includes the people that are going to be part of that plan, and that’s all that matters.”


“I wish you love from an internet stranger for the journey you’re going on in the next couple of years.”

“It really does sound like you were ready for this journey, with worthy support and guidance, and you were confident in how the next couple of years will pan out for you… right up until a couple of people you know said it wouldn’t be their plan. That’s not the journey they would take.”

“But it’s not their plan and future. It’s yours. Your life and your end of life. Don’t doubt yourself.” – RoxanneLaWin

While the subReddit couldn’t necessarily envision themselves taking the journey as the OP intended, they appreciated that it was the OP’s choice in how to live her final days.

Whether her friends or family understood or appreciated it was technically irrelevant, as she needed to do what was best for her, her remaining health, and her end-of-life journey.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit