Haven't you ever heard a family describe a relative's death in a hospital? "Even the nurses were crying!" It's a validation that their relative was a meaningful, valued person! It gives MUCH comfort to the family if you are able to share, in some small way, the grief that can be so overwhelming.
That doesn't mean that you are so prostrate with sorrow that you cannot do your job. If it is not your patient, it helps to approach the family, touch them and tell them you're sorry for their loss. So that the nurse assigned to the family can stay with them and help them, offer to help w/ some of her other pts, ask of they need vitals or meds or whatever. Comfort her, too, esp. if it's a primary pt, or someone she's "bonded" with.
If it is your patient, you will have many duties on which to focus, preparing the body (let family members help if they wish), charting, death packet, making sure hospital policy and procedure is followed, etc.
But if you ever really manage to teach yourself "to stop feeling sad", at least a little bit, you'll need to go back and look the word "nursing" up in the dictionary!
FEEL, don't be incapacitated. You can help the patient and family more effectively if you acknowledge how you feel, and work with them. Even as you do that, keep in mind all the other things you'll be doing for the pt. Meds, treatments, documenting. You're the nurse, you know how to do all that stuff. The family is counting on you!
As a staff nurse, this will not be the only patient you have! All the pts in your assignment need to be cared for. Being busy will help you NOT be overwhelmed by one sad case.
Good Luck! Hope this helps.
[This message has been edited by prmenrs (edited January 20, 2001).]