Bizarre Reactions to Death - page 6

I was trying to think of a gentle, positive, and non-offensive way to start this thread, but... it's true. I've witnessed some really bizarre reactions to patient's deaths: by family, by staff, by... Read More

  1. by   ShortFuse_LPN
    I work in LTC so I deal with death quite often. A few weeks ago, One of our res. was dying , her children where there all day with her. Around 7 pm the daughter comes in and asks me...How much longer will mother live? I reply that I cannot give an answer to that because I just don't know. She asks if she should go home. I explain to her that some families stay, some leave, it's just a personal decision. She and her brother stay about an hour longer (8:30 pm). As I am walking past the room I realize that I can no longer hear her breathing (had labored breathing audible in hallway during my shift), this is 8:45pm. She had passed. When I called the family the daughter was upset because she left. I gently explained that sometimes the dying will wait til family leaves or gives permission before dying. She got really angery and said..."are you saying it's my fault she died because I went home?!?" Guess some ppl don't understand the concept that someone will hold on for their family.
    The strangest reaction to death was when My mother passed away from Ovarian cancer. She was very quiet hours before and you could tell she was nearing the end of her time. We had been waiting for my brother to arrive , the room was very quiet there were many aunts and her sister in the room with me. I just held her hand and layed my head on her bed (I was 19 at the time) Within an hour my brother had arrived. I would say within 30 minutes my mother was awake alert and oriented. She started laughing with the family and communicating her wishes to each and every family member there. She had even mentioned how wonderful it was that all 3 of her children were there.(My middle brother died when I was 10) Well that freaked one of my aunts out, BIG TIME...... within a few minutes of expressing her wishes and telling all that she wanted to say, she closed her eyes and took her last breath as my brother held one hand and I held the other. Both of us sobbing but agreeing with what was happening. Next thing I know My great aunt was flipping out.... Literally bouncing off the walls, speaking in tounges, and trying everything to "Bring the spirit " back to the body.... Well in doing that the Nursing staff immediately removed her... the Dr that was one the floor at the time gave a nice little vitamin V... I had never in my life seen anything like that and it scared me more than the
    death itself.. Knowing what I know now, I can understand what she was doing it was her way of not letting go... I cant blame her... I didnt want to let go either.

    The Dr and the Nurses came in and settled everyone down, and allowed us time to spend peacefully with my mother. From that experience I became a Nurse.
  3. by   mother/babyRN
    When I was sort of new in delivery we had a series of infant deaths. We had at least 3 in two months and I happened to be on for all of them. With the first one the mother was a psychotic person whose boyfriend had hung himself. She came in to the unit in labor and we heard no fetal heart tones. Thus we had to induce labor. It didn't work. Finally, we had to give conscious sedation and it still didn't knock her out. The baby came out and it's skull fell apart because it was so macerated. Everyone in the room except me was crying. I sort of felt distant from the whole experience and it bothered me that it hadn't affected me.
    A year or so later, I had a baby die on the way down to the OR. That is, we lost the heart rate, and sectioned a beautiful baby girl who we could not revive. I held the baby, wrapped her , stayed with her and the parents, and still didn't cry...Two months after that, I was on during another sad situation, and one of the older nurses came up to me and asked that I give her the expired infant. I told her I was fine ( I really thought I was), and refused. She grabbed me, gave me a huge hug, and gently took the baby from me. I collapsed in tears. They had to take me to a private room because the grieving she started wasn't just for that baby, but for all the others I had seen and not yet reacted to....
  4. by   debyan
    Mother/babyRN how strong and brave you are those sound like hard experiences((())) I have worked in LTC but mostly with severely disabled children. I sincerely feel that the soul is set free of the limitations that the body has given it and these children are at peace. This is how I handle it, still I will cry. I have been lucky in not having seen so many violent reactions.
    The wailing and falling to the floor type reaction though is familiar my husband's family is this way. I was shocked the first time I went with him to a funeral. We are quiet and very formal in my family.
    When my father died I had flown back to Ohio and drove to the Cleveland Clinic where he was, still alive. My mom was at a loss
    the doctors showed me some of the test results and radiology results showing me where his valve was not working properlly and how almost totally his arteries were clogged. It was not good
    it was awful he had had 2 bypasses and at 65 was to old for a new heart . My mother wanted words of hope and the reality well stunk. Mom and Dad decided he would go home and face what was left there, Mom decided to drive Dad home, home health was to deliver a Oxygen concetrator and I would stay there with them to hellp I have 4 sisters who could help and a brother too. Well mom took off driving home like a bat out of he**, it was a wonder he even survived the ride home. The next day was spent listening to the two of them talking about how they would change his diet, exercise,ect and everything would be alright.This in itself about killed me, I felt so, well, like they expected me to be able to change what was about to happen. The next day I was sitting talking to my dad in the living room, just talking looking out into the front lawn it seemed that mom and him were going to see another doctor to see if he could do anything something about a valve replacement fron a pig, no bs. So we went to Aultman in Canton Ohio where they did some tests on him and told us pretty much that the outlook was poor that even if they tried this procedure that he may loose the abilities he still had, at this time he was still ambulatory and able to care for himself just weak, and on oxygen. Mom wantd so much for there to be a chance and wanted me to tell her it would be alright. We told dad we had to go over to my sisters home and talk, about 10 min from the hospital. well just as we got to her home ,the hospital called, he died. My eyes are watering up just thinking about this, when we got there he looked so peaceful maybe he was waiting so mom wouldn't see him go. I know when the minister tried to tell me that he was in a better place I told him WTF are you talkng about there is no better place than home with us. Even after seeing death in my work it hadn't made me tready for the force of my emotions. Here I am rambling . deb
  5. by   Gromit
    well, I dont considder my 'odd' experience to be bizzare. But back towards the end of my career as a paramedic, we went to an early-morning 'non-breather', and upon arriving, the elderly gentleman opened the door to his house, lead us to his bedroom, and exited to wait in the dining room. His wife had passed away some hours earlier. So we went to the dining room to wait for the officer to arrive and take over (standard procedure in that county. Police called and made all the arrangements for the family, as required or requested).

    Well, within 1/2 hr, the living room began to fill up with neighbors and "friends". They came in (not knocking) and gathered, loudly talking about the newly departed, how "she hadn't been feeling too well lately" and "she should have seen her doctor!" but not one of them went to talk to their friend, to offer aid and comfort or anything else.

    >I< went to the 'party' and asked who was the closest to the surviving member, after picking one of them, I ran the others out of the house (who protested bitterly at being excluded). I told them that this was MY scene, and I was in charge, and they were to vacate. They weren't helping their friend, and could wait outside the house. I got no further argument. I then went (the 'leader' just sat on the couch) and offered what comfort I could to the gentleman, who basically just leaned on my shoulder and cried.

    I felt very bad for him, and considder to this day (some 10 yrs later) his 'friends' to be incredibly rude. I pray my friends are truer than that. I did find it a bit disturbing.
  6. by   Gromit
    deb. I wanted to say that I understand how you feel. I've seen a lot of death, but have been very lucky to have kept even my grandparents alive, but last year, they fell. One after the other, like dominoes. Lost 4 in a year, and each hurt more than the one before. I was very upset. My grandfather on my mothers' side was the worst, because he lived with my folks for the last half of the year (it was that, or LTC). His wife (my grandmother) was the first in the year, happened while I was halfway through RN Fundamentals. He had prostate CA, and towards the end, would rarely move (consequently, developed ulcers on his bottom). I set a goal to make his bottom healthy, and am proud to say that he had good skin integrity when he died. I rushed home from the hospital I work at, to make sure that he didnt have diapers on, and was clean, before the funeral home picked him up.
    It was the least I could do.
  7. by   NurseWeasel
    Awwwww, Gromit! You touched my heart with your story! You are a sweetie and I honor your dedication to family. ((hugs))
  8. by   mario_ragucci
    Gromit - I respect what you did and feel like you do. Your account of what happened is excellent. It is sick and wrong for anyone to show open disrespect for a natural death.

    Do you feel you took a risk by barking those disrespectful people out? What if those people, or tothers, refuse to leave. Yewd have to just wait for the police. Is it okay for a nurse to raise voice to anyone? I enjoy reading your experience.
  9. by   Gromit
    NurseWeasel (a most cool moniker!) I appreciate that. I was raised to believe (and do) very strongly in 'family'. I was also very close to that grandfather, he was a very proud man. He cried when his oldest grandson (yours truly) cleaned and changed him for the first time. I cried with him, as I know that I too, am a very proud man, and it would hurt to be in his shoes. I was very fortunate to have a girlfriend who was very supportive during such times.

    Death is not something I fear (literally twice, I thought I'd found my end -thankfully not) but to die w/o dignity, that is the worst, most desperate fear I have.

    I keep talking like that, they may send me to the 4th floor (our psych unit).

    mario_ragucci. Yes, I did take some risk in speaking like that, but it really angered me to see this poor man sitting and crying, all alone, at his dinner table, while his "friends" and neighbors all stood around talking loudly about the newly deceased. I felt that was extremely dissrespectful, and >I< had no option, I HAD to be there.
    Fortunately for me, most people will follow orders if given by someone in uniform, who at least sounds like they are in charge I'm also a pretty good sized individual, and something of a presence when annoyed.
    Lastly, I was upset enough that I didn't care if my job was on the line. The situation was just plain wrong.
  10. by   mario_ragucci
    Yes, you had no choice but to be there, and this situation was NOT of your initiation. But I see this as a chance to learn, in case I am ever at a bizarre reaction and am being myself.
    For example, if I was the RN at an actual dying with potential for bizarre reaction, i would think about how I could lock the doors, securing the site.
    What if a "trouble maker" was harming the dignity of the family. I'd look the door after someone died until the police come to prevent potential intruders. I'm talking about this because it would upset me too. Fighting could not be an option, which means getting involved is limited. I'm sorry
  11. by   NurseWeasel
    Thanks, Gromit. I think your post touched my heart because I, too, cared for my *very most favorite person in the world* dying grandfather. Family is the most important thing to me, too. I was blessed this Thanksgiving & Christmas (BOTH!) to have ALL my surviving family at my house... extended and nuclear. My 30th birthday (5 years ago, ahem) was my "best day ever" because I still had both Grandma and Grandpa (although terminal), and spent the day surrounded by family. Thank you for the warm memories. =)
  12. by   flaerman
    I used to work oncology years ago and the strangest thing I ever saw was when I had a lady of eastern-European extraction that had died before her family could make it in. I called the sons to notify and when they showed up they brought in a polaroid camera and started taking pictures of her. They even went as far as take pictures of one another lying on the bed and posing with her, they even wanted me totake a picture of both of them posing with her which I was uncomfortable doing so they got someone else to do it.--Paul
  13. by   kaycee
    Originally posted by JeannieM
    This is a fascinating thread! Actually, one of the most bizarre reactions to death was my own, when my mother died suddenly, but not completely unexpectedly, of an MI. I was in graduate school at the time, and I received the call one morning a week before finals. My response:
    1. I called my sister and informed her (she lives over a thousand miles away).
    2. I e-mailed all of my professors and my study group, asking them to get me notes for the classes I might miss.
    3. I called my husband at work. He came home and helped me pack.
    4. I drove to the town where she had died, arranged the funeral, saw a lawyer to help clear up the estate, assumed executor role, and with my sister, who was pretty upset, and our families, sorted through Mom's house and possessions. (We get along great; there wasn't any fighting over Mom's things).
    5. I finished up what had to be done, went back, only missed one class and took finals.
    Six months later, I unexpectedly burst into tears in the middle of a Walmart when I saw something Mom would have loved to have. I'm sure that at the time everyone thought I was the most cold-blooded daughter they'd ever seen. I have no idea what happened; I just went into auto-pilot. I couldn't even cry at the funeral!
    So bizarre responses to death? Families themselves probably couldn't explain them. I know I couldn't explain my own. JeannieM
    I had the same reaction when my mother died suddenly. My father was quite ill at the time and the rest of the kids are out of town. I was responsible for everything and was making all the decisions. I don't think it really hit me until everyone went home. That's when I started to mourn, privately my own way.