Return to trauma after husband's death

  1. 0
    Hi. I am a nurse in the busiest er in my state, a level 2 trauma center. On New Year's day, I worked trauma all shift, then came home to find my husband dead. He had comitted suicide. I will save you all of the details.
    I love my job, have worked er for over five years, and especially love trauma, and all of my coworkers are eager to have me back at work, but am concerned abouthow I will perform after such a personal tragedy. I'm afraid a trauma will trigger memories and affect my performanc.
    Does anyone have any suggestions or advice? FYI - My husband passed away on 1/1/13, 10 days ago.
  2. 24 Comments so far...

  3. 0
    i am so sad to hear about your unspeakable tragedy. no nurse, or person, is ready for this.
    working in trauma, perhaps this might exacerbate flashbacks. or you may have a very unique grieving process.
    NONE THE LESS...please please surround yourself with helpful family, friends, co workers. go to your HR dept and ask for some FMLA or personal time off. take advantge of any EAP your emplpoyer has, grief counselors, what have you.

    *take care of you*
  4. 0
    Yes, I am currently on FMLA, and my whole family (2 chilren, 5 and 8) are in grief counseling at present. I just don't know what's too soon to go back, and what, if any, safeguards I can take against flashbacks and triggers.
  5. 0
    I'm so sorry to hear about your husband. I can only imagine what you are going through and I honestly don't have an answer for you...I wish I did but I don't! The only thing I think is that as time goes on you'll maybe know if you can or you can't. Again so sorry
  6. 0
    I'm sorry for your loss. I don't think anyone can determine for you when you are ready to go back to trauma nursing, but I do think 10 days is too soon. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to be "ready" to go back to any job after only 10 days. If I was in your situation, I would only be trying to get back to work as a way to escape from processing and managing everything at home. Not saying that this is your situation. But I can imagine how difficult it is for you to lead your children through this, and I'm so sorry you have to go through this.
  7. 0
    Oh, I'm not trying to go back right now, just trying to figure out what is reasonable and, more than anything, if there are any therapies/strategies out there for situations such as mine. I don't want my patients to receive less than adequate care because I had a tragedy. Is like very much to find a management therapy to help me push past any triggers.
  8. 0
    I am also so sorry about your loss. No words can express to you the sympathy I feel for your situation. I do not believe there is any set time limit for anyone to grieve or a "reasonable" time for you since this was such an unexpected loss. Likely for years to come, due to the work we do in the ER, you will face patients who will bring about triggers for you that may make you have to excuse yourself to the med room, breakroom, bathroom, or wherever you need to go for a few moments to compose yourself. You are human. As long as you work with understanding people, you WILL make it through this. ER nurses are some of the toughest of our kind. Don't try to rush yourself though. Just try to live through this new experience in your life. It is an awful one, I am sure, but it sounds like you are headed in the right direction since you are looking for ways to make it to the other side of it in one piece. Counseling for your children is wonderful, but don't forget about you too.
  9. 0
    I would see a grief counselor and a psychiatrist and then let those professionals guide me through the process and it is a process. I know it must have been traumatic especially for you since you found him. Once you are further along with dealing with your grief you may actually find work a respite of sorts You may feel happy to be productive again and contributing again but you need to not rush it. Sorry for your loss...so sad.
  10. 0
    I am so sorry for your loss. I'm glad to to see that you and your children are already in counseling as I am sure this is a very difficult time. I think it will be possible to come back to trauma, sure there will be bad days for you and things that will upset you more, but there will also be things in time that you have a deeper understanding of. As fas as safeguards, i think people will just need to be understanding that you may need to maybe ease yourself into your job with shorter shifts or be permitted to "take a moment" if you're feeling overwhelmed while on the clock. You certainly have reason to feel as such. I don't think there's a magic formula of "when is appropriate" to return to work. Some people need to return themselves to a normal routine right away. Some people can't do that. Neither person is right or wrong. What is important is making sure you take care of yourself and take enough "me time" to grieve, vent, cry, scream, relax or even laugh to get yourself through this. Be well.
  11. 1
    I am so sorry for your loss.

    As someone who returned to the ER after a sudden traumatic loss ... you might want to consider short shifts of 4 or so hours for your first week. I found that the overstimulation of typical ER craziness was just that - overstimulation and sensory overload.. Also consider speaking with your manager/charge nurses/supervisor(s) about rotating through different assignments to avoid 12 hours of triage or 12 hours of a particularly demanding patient/family or 12 hours of nonstop trauma. Step your toe back in the water before jumping back into the pool.

    Also ask your grief counselor or other EAP provider about specific cognitive therapies designed to treat ruminative thinking and "flashbacks" of traumatic incidents. I know several nurses/paramedics/firefighters/police officers/military personnel who have had good results with these therapies.

    Again, I am so very sorry for your loss. I will keep you in my thoughts.
    Esme12 likes this.


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