I don't know how you nurses deal with death - page 4

by Poochiewoochie 6,709 Views | 44 Comments

Today I sat and watched as my mother lay dying in her bed at the NH. Horrible-not like in the movies at all. I sort of knew what to expect but actually seeing someone die is a lot harder than most can imagine. Her lungs were so... Read More


  1. 0
    My sincere condolences on the loss of your mother. You are asking very good questions, but I wanted to address one thing you said, regarding the memory of her appearance at the time of her passing.

    That image probably will never leave you, but over time it will not be the only image you can see when you think of her. I lost my mother suddenly about 14 months ago and was the one to find her body; it was the only way I could remember her for close to a year. As time has passed, though, and I have purposefully sought out pictures and other memories, it is not the first image that comes to mind. I am still grieving, but there is an element of fondness that was nearly impossible to conjure when all I could picture was her body in death, rather than my mother in life.

    God's peace to you. I think we all have capacities to bear the burdens we are called to bear in our jobs and our private lives. I for one could never be a social worker, but nursing works for me.
  2. 0
    Sadly last week my experience with the losing someone happened and it was unexpected. My grandmother of 84 suffered a stroke and had hemorrhaging in the brain. It took a few days but there was nothing left we could do but to make her comfortable and wait for things to start shutting down. Nurses are humans to we're also going to grieve just like anyone else but it's a part of our job to accept death eventually happens and as medical professionals we have responsibilities to our patients and their families to provide them the care they're entitled to and deserve regardless of what stage of life someone is in.
  3. 4
    Having seen so many NH residents die as the OP described, I'm a firm believer that what we see physically in these cases in no way represents what the actual process is like for the dying loved one. I'm not a religious person, but I believe that when the dying process reaches that stage, the dying person already is more...... wherever they're going than they are here on earth.
    Hoozdo, tewdles, Poochiewoochie, and 1 other like this.
  4. 3
    Condolences on the loss of you mother, hugs to you.

    I work in an area that usually does not have many deaths. Although we are making changes to what areas receive what type of pt. so we have had 3 deaths over the last 2 weeks. Of the 3, none had any quality of life. My belief is there are worse things than death.
    Hoozdo, ElSea, and anotherone like this.
  5. 0
    Quote from GrnTea
    You know, a student reading this thread might think that most nurses deal with a death every day. Not true. Even in ICU and ER, people don't die every day, or even every week.
    I'm a student and I must have a little black cloud that follows me around. It seems like every week I'm at the hospital one or more patients die

    Before going into nursing I worked in the veterinary field. Death was such a frequent thing that I really did get used to it. The patients were indeed animals, but over a decade I'd known some of them their entire lives and saw them frequently. It's still sad and I recognized the loss, but the emotion was very fleeting. I moved on quickly and got back to work on the next patient. It's tough when I'd try to explain that to people I always felt like it made me sound insensitive.

    Strangely enough, over the years I've had hundreds of people tell me they grieved more for their pets passing than their own family members.
    Last edit by lolaviex on Feb 26, '13 : Reason: added thought
  6. 1
    My condolences on the loss of your mother-in-law. I don't know if anyone has told you this, but often I see that people seem to "plan" their moment of death -- often when families have stepped out for just a moment, or other times after that last grandchild finally makes it to say goodbye. I've seen it too many times to discount it. I would like to think your mother-in-law picked her moment, too, knowing how you would feel about being the one with her. Perhaps because the others would have felt differently.

    Now, to the topic at hand. I'm sure others have said much of what I'm going to say, but I thought I would share anyway.

    I think in North America we are one of the few cultures in the world that doesn't easily accept death. I'm not saying that *you* don't, but as a society it is something we have come to fear, where other cultures accept it for what it is and though the death of a loved one is always a sad time, it's also accepted as part of life. Over here I think we grow up feeling that death is scary. It's unknown and we are afraid of it.

    Nursing is it's own sort of culture, too. When I began my career, I didn't know how I would handle death and dying. I remember during our hospital orientation prior to our first acute clinical experience, one of my classmates burst into tears when we were shown the morgue. I actually don't remember the first death I was involved in, oddly enough now that I am writing this, though I know it must have happened when I was a student. I do remember the first death of my own patient after I graduated. The man died and minutes later, down the hall, a baby boy was born. I thought that was kind of fitting.

    After almost seven years of practice, I've seen lots of death. It's always sad, though some cases are harder than others. No matter what, a life has ended, and people mourn. Death is a part of life, and at the end of life, like in the beginning, people are at their most vulnerable. For me, and I think for many nurses, we feel honoured to have been a part of that ending -- not because we enjoy seeing people die, but because helping somebody die with dignity, in peace and comfort, is one of the greatest things we can do for another human being.

    The easiest way to say it is you "get used to" death, though that isn't exactly it, either. I think somewhere along the way, I started seeing death in a different way. I'm sure it would be different if I was holding vigil around the bed of my own family member, but I can't say for sure. When my grandmother was dying, I had a couple of years of RN experience already, but my parents decided not to call me until she was already gone (they felt I couldn't *handle* it, which saddens me more than I can express). As I said, it's always sad. It's harder when it is a young person with children at home than for an elderly person who has lived a long life, but regardless, that person meant everything to somebody.

    I said above (and I'm writing this on the fly, so I apologize for any repetetiveness), that loved (or lonely) person deserves nothing short of peace. I see death not as an end to a life, but as an end to pain, to sickness, to all things which wear on us in life. Sometimes dying is peaceful without our help. People go to sleep and just don't wake up. And sometimes it isn't, and that is where I, through my training and experience as a nurse, can help. More than that, I am honoured to help. When my patient passes in comfort, because my coworkers and I have done everything we can to make it so, I am not sad. Not in the way I would be if that were my loved one.

    I am relieved, gladdened that their death, which would have happened with or without my care, happened in relative peace. Honoured, as I've said, to have been a part of this moment. Some nurses welcome people into the world, and some wish them goodbye.

    I always open a window, did you know, after they have died.

    It isn't always peaceful, and those deaths are difficult. Sometimes even with all that is available to us, we just can't take away all the pain. Even in those deaths, though, there is that relief at the end because, no matter what, you know for certain there is no more pain. I do regret, in those cases, that I couldn't do more. The families, too, the ones that have such a tough time accepting that their loved one is dying -- I wish I could help them see it differently. Some are relieved, in the end, and some are broken. In those moments, caring for them is just as important as caring for the patient.

    I don't know if I have made any sense or not, but there you go.
    Aurora77 likes this.
  7. 0
    Quote from SaoirseRN
    My condolences on the loss of your mother-in-law. I don't know if anyone has told you this, but often I see that people seem to "plan" their moment of death -- often when families have stepped out for just a moment, or other times after that last grandchild finally makes it to say goodbye. I've seen it too many times to discount it. I would like to think your mother-in-law picked her moment, too, knowing how you would feel about being the one with her. Perhaps because the others would have felt differently.

    Now, to the topic at hand. I'm sure others have said much of what I'm going to say, but I thought I would share anyway.

    I think in North America we are one of the few cultures in the world that doesn't easily accept death. I'm not saying that *you* don't, but as a society it is something we have come to fear, where other cultures accept it for what it is and though the death of a loved one is always a sad time, it's also accepted as part of life. Over here I think we grow up feeling that death is scary. It's unknown and we are afraid of it.

    Nursing is it's own sort of culture, too. When I began my career, I didn't know how I would handle death and dying. I remember during our hospital orientation prior to our first acute clinical experience, one of my classmates burst into tears when we were shown the morgue. I actually don't remember the first death I was involved in, oddly enough now that I am writing this, though I know it must have happened when I was a student. I do remember the first death of my own patient after I graduated. The man died and minutes later, down the hall, a baby boy was born. I thought that was kind of fitting.

    After almost seven years of practice, I've seen lots of death. It's always sad, though some cases are harder than others. No matter what, a life has ended, and people mourn. Death is a part of life, and at the end of life, like in the beginning, people are at their most vulnerable. For me, and I think for many nurses, we feel honoured to have been a part of that ending -- not because we enjoy seeing people die, but because helping somebody die with dignity, in peace and comfort, is one of the greatest things we can do for another human being.

    The easiest way to say it is you "get used to" death, though that isn't exactly it, either. I think somewhere along the way, I started seeing death in a different way. I'm sure it would be different if I was holding vigil around the bed of my own family member, but I can't say for sure. When my grandmother was dying, I had a couple of years of RN experience already, but my parents decided not to call me until she was already gone (they felt I couldn't *handle* it, which saddens me more than I can express). As I said, it's always sad. It's harder when it is a young person with children at home than for an elderly person who has lived a long life, but regardless, that person meant everything to somebody.

    I said above (and I'm writing this on the fly, so I apologize for any repetetiveness), that loved (or lonely) person deserves nothing short of peace. I see death not as an end to a life, but as an end to pain, to sickness, to all things which wear on us in life. Sometimes dying is peaceful without our help. People go to sleep and just don't wake up. And sometimes it isn't, and that is where I, through my training and experience as a nurse, can help. More than that, I am honoured to help. When my patient passes in comfort, because my coworkers and I have done everything we can to make it so, I am not sad. Not in the way I would be if that were my loved one.

    I am relieved, gladdened that their death, which would have happened with or without my care, happened in relative peace. Honoured, as I've said, to have been a part of this moment. Some nurses welcome people into the world, and some wish them goodbye.

    I always open a window, did you know, after they have died.

    It isn't always peaceful, and those deaths are difficult. Sometimes even with all that is available to us, we just can't take away all the pain. Even in those deaths, though, there is that relief at the end because, no matter what, you know for certain there is no more pain. I do regret, in those cases, that I couldn't do more. The families, too, the ones that have such a tough time accepting that their loved one is dying -- I wish I could help them see it differently. Some are relieved, in the end, and some are broken. In those moments, caring for them is just as important as caring for the patient.

    I don't know if I have made any sense or not, but there you go.
    Thanks, it was my Mom not mother in law-I've never had one of them.
  8. 0
    Quote from lolaviex

    Strangely enough, over the years I've had hundreds of people tell me they grieved more for their pets passing than their own family members.

    I was with our dachshund when we had to put her to sleep in '95. That was so peaceful. And yes, I can certainly understand people grieving more for their pets than a family member.
  9. 0
    Quote from leslie :-D
    as an aside...


    2. in our hospice, we don't 'do' suction...
    as the med'l dir and DON strongly felt that suction in and of itself, was terribly invasive,
    and that drying agents (scope, levsin, etc) were much more effective (if started at first sign of fluid shift) and less invasive.

    i also know that hospices are as varied as the nurses who implement the care.

    leslie

    They tried to suction my Mom but the secretions were too thick.They used those little sticks with the spongees on the end that you wet and tried to remove it from her mouth that way.
  10. 0
    Quote from Poochiewoochie

    Thanks, it was my Mom not mother in law-I've never had one of them.
    I'm sorry! Somehow I misread that, my apologies, Poochiewoochie.


Top