Nurses Coping with Personal Grief - page 3

How many of you have felt helpless or guilty when caring for a seriously ill or dying patient? How many become overwhelmed with emotion after a particularly "bad death", or the death of a... Read More

  1. by   tnbutterfly
    LockportRN...... If I may ask, how long has it been since your mother's death? I know following my dad's death, I had to take some time off. I could not even bear to go into the hospital. It was even hard for me to see people his age healthy and enjoying life. i know that may sound crazy......but it made me sad because my dad was no longer here enjoying life. Of course, I know he is in a much better place.....no more pain and suffering...... But it doesn't make me miss him any less.

    I understand your feelings of guilt. I have had my share of that as well. Since I lived more than 700 miles from Dad, being the long-distance caregiver was hard. It was especially hard when I talked to him for the last time and realized he was probably dying. I am the one who alerted the nurses in the ALF that he was in trouble. I was the one who called the ER to be told that your dad is unresponsive and we intubated him. I am the one who tried my best to get to him in a chartered plane.....but I was too late. He died 30 minutes before I landed.

    Not a day goes by that I don't think of Dad.....wondering what I could've done differently. I know he was living on borrowed time. In the 3 months before he died, I was at his house for over a month. I took him to the ER 3 times and he was admitted each time for a week. I know if I hadn't been there at that time, her would've died. But........like you......I was not with him when he did die. And....like you.....I did talk to him just minutes before he arrested in the ambulance.

    Guilt is a hard thing to deal with. We can beat ourselves up with it. Your mother loved and trusted you. You were there for her throughout her care. You need to try to focus on that time.....the many special moments that you shared.

    Don't apologize for wanting to talk about your grief. You are simply sharing from your heart----in a very healthy way--some of the pain you still have inside. Sometimes when we start to do this, something causes our social conditioning to kick in, and the myth that we are well beyond the "accepted" grief period causes us to feel guilty for talking about our losses. It doesn't matter how long ago your loss occurred or how many times you have already shared your story. If something is still weighing heavily on your heart, it is healthy....and healing......to talk about it. Give yourself permission to grieve for as long as you need to. Your loss has shaken your life, and it takes a long time to pick up the pieces and find a way to put them back together again
  2. by   LockportRN
    Butterfly thank you again for sharing and listening. I am a little ashamed to say that it has been 2 years Aug 7th. I have had 2 jobs since then, but felt 'disconnected'. So much so that I even called some of my nurse friends and former administrator to ask them "Was I any good as a DON or did I just think I was?".

    I guess the hardest part is that in the end she asked me to watch over my little sister as "she is the only one that would have a hard time if I died". She didn't know how very much I still needed her. I guess as the big sister, I have always been responsible for her. As the eldest and most independent child, she assumed that I would be ok. Funny thing is, I am the only one that really fell apart. I am the only one of 11 children that is 'lost'. So many, many patients have I been there for, often at the end with no family in sight, and here, I was not there for her. I did not have POH for HC, and so I really did not have any say. I keep thinking of oh so many patients that had round after round of ABTs until FINALLY they turned the corner. Not here. Not for my mom. My brother insisted that she would not want to be on a respirator. And yes, she did sign a DNR stating this, but ... There is this constant "What if..." I have seen so many 'miracles' and I just don't know "what if...I fought harder...was more convincing....had stayed that night to be there when her fight became too hard!

    Lord help me...I wish I could let this go. I wish I could find some peace. Wow, butterfly what a thread! I haven't cried like this in so long. I thought I was over it.

    My heart goes out to you and again (not to sound redundant) thank you for sharing your heart with us. With me. Thank you because you have helped me to identify my issues with going back to nursing. May God bless!
  3. by   wondern
    Guess what...I was there, holding his hand. I still find other things to feel guilty about. Then I tell myself, "Enough, enough already, This IS NOT what Daddy would want for me. It's been 10 years since Daddy's death. Let it be already. (still talking to myself) Actually, it's like I can hear him saying, Get on with your life, Baby. (in a sweet way)

    Daddy lived 500 miles away. I went on FMLA and went for a week or two at a time until I went through all my sick and vacation time. I had just received the papers to fill out for unpaid leave when he passed. I even feel a little guilty about that, like maybe I had said something when I really shouldn't have in casual conversation. 'I'm a loser, baby... Then I tell myself stop again.

    I'm reading a wonderful book now by Wayne Dyer. He interprets the Tao verse by verse. It's called 'Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life". I'm finding it very enlightening and comforting. It talks about your spirit going on forever. My Dad enjoyed reading books when he was going through his journey. I remember my sister got him the book, Conversations With God. He seemed to enjoy that a lot. Sian, maybe your Dad might like a book too. I know the Bible is always a good book.

    I also really liked the part in Dyer's book about we are not what we do or what we've accomplished. We are all children of God supposed to love one another not judge and set external rating systems, which can be so much a part of nursing. Even if you do a 5 star job with patients if you don't ignore/tolerate the games encountered in an unprofessional and/or bullying work environment where the main goal is to avoid work and or helping one another equally, than you may be up the creek without a paddle anyhow, if you are in a will to work state.
    Enough was enough. I tried to do something and lost my job too, the one I tried so hard to keep throughout Daddy's illness. It seemed so important then. I haven't worked in 4 years. I supposedly went out of the chain of command for help and got fired. My manager at the end, my last 4 years of employ, was not a nurse and definitely had her faves. I should've so not trusted her and not been so stubborn and transferred out like she suggested, but no, I had to give her the pleasure of firing me. Enough was enough.

    I worked so hard there and only wanted to advance in my position like I had previously in the hospital area. I should've ignored all her assaults and unjustified write ups and left instead of losing 17 years time in this fine teaching level III trauma center of the mid south that I loved. I feel guilty I just didn't quit when Dad was dying.

    I feel guilty and selfish right now for talking about this when Sian and other peoples loved ones are dying. I guess since the blog is about grief that's why.

    Now when I really think about it why grieve a lost job these past 4 years when I could've been grieving, and even more fun, rejoicing really important Beings not things like a job. I let it become too much of me.

    My nursing job was not who I was even though I have to say I loved it and spread as much love and healing as I learned and knew how. I hope I can spread some more here by sharing this. It seems to help me to know there are others out there who have felt the pain that is similar. Thanks for that, tnbutterfly, and everybody else too for sharing. It ain't easy. For today, I will go with the flow w/o judging (including myself) as much as possible and I wish the same for you all.
  4. by   CandyGyrl1985
    [font=book antiqua]i lost my father to prostate cancer july 2008. i started clinicals 6 months later. my dad and i were very very close.
    everything reminded me of him... the iv stands, the meal trays, monitors, i mean everything!!!! the very first day i felt so consumed with grief but since i was working - there was no way i could sit and have a good cry. :zzzzz

    i forced myself to push through it. i reminded myself that my dad would not want his death to affect my career.

    i have never had to bury my emotions before, but during the first few weeks of clinicals - that is exactly what i did. i swallowed it up, and when i had brief moments where i felt on the verge of tears, i would distract myself with thoughts. such as, reciting the order of bed linens that go on the bed, making a mental list of the tasks i needed to accomplish that hour. after a couple of minutes of that line of thought, i was over my heart ache and ready to move on.

    my biggest problem was working with a particular patient that: looked like my father, had prostate cancer, wore the same watch as him and always winked at me the way my dad did. for this patient, i always said hello and asked him how he was. but i realized immediately that i was associating him with my dad and worried about how that would affect my ability to work with him. so - i told my instructor about the loss of my dad and the patient. i asked to not work with him, simply because i knew that for me i would not be objective. she agreed that i would not be able to keep that emotional barrier up that nurses have to use to protect their hearts from losing patients.

    now that i have more time under my belt since his death.... i work with hospice patients. which i never would have thought i could do, since a large majority of them have cancer. but you know what i have discovered- the pain that i went through, i can turn into experience, empathy and understanding for the patients that are going through the dying process.

    i cant tell you how hard it is to lose a patient- but i can tell you that if you take that pain and tell yourself that you have to be strong for them & their families and you can have a good cry when you get home - it changes your perspective on things. :wink2:

    now, i feel so blessed to be able to touch the lives of the patients i work with, as they also touch mine.

    can it be painful - absoultely - but i remind myself that if they have the courage to face their disease- then i can have the courage enough to battle my own inner emotions and help them.
  5. by   junebug50
    On the floor I work we deal with this from day to day. I work oncology. I don't think there is a week that goes by that either someone that we have had on a regular basis for chemo either passes away or has been told that there is nothing else that can be done.
    Have I stood and cried with the patient and or with the family? Have I drove home and cried? Yes I have and I will probally continue to do so. Some have become so jaded that those tears have dried up. Hopefully I will never become like that. But also, not getting close to death is how some nurses cope, it dosent mean that they don't care.
    When nurses laugh and seem like they don't care that is part of the coping mechanism. If they don't let it get close to them they can't get hurt.
    Just remember don't loose the compassion.
  6. by   Sian40
    Dear all,

    Thank you for all your kind words & support, I haven't had chance reply, cos I've been back & forward to the hospital.

    Dad died yesterday, after going drastically down hill on Monday, so, 2 weeks to the day, after we were given the diagnosis, which is a blessing for hime, as none of us wanted to see him suffer. Last weekend, we had a family get together, which was wonderful & despite him being very unwell on Tuesday, my family had chance to have a few laughs with him, which will feature a lot in my fond memories of him. I was able to stroke his head as he slipped away peacefully.

    I will probably pop by here from time to time, still quite shell shocked, but I will get there.

    Thank you again
    Sian x
  7. by   tnbutterfly
    Quote from Sian40
    Dear all,

    Thank you for all your kind words & support, I haven't had chance reply, cos I've been back & forward to the hospital.

    Dad died yesterday, after going drastically down hill on Monday, so, 2 weeks to the day, after we were given the diagnosis, which is a blessing for hime, as none of us wanted to see him suffer. Last weekend, we had a family get together, which was wonderful & despite him being very unwell on Tuesday, my family had chance to have a few laughs with him, which will feature a lot in my fond memories of him. I was able to stroke his head as he slipped away peacefully.

    I will probably pop by here from time to time, still quite shell shocked, but I will get there.

    Thank you again
    Sian x

    I am so sorry to hear this. I know your heart is very heavy and you are overwhelmed right now........most likely numb from what all you've been through the past few weeks. I am so glad you were able to have some special family time and were there with him in the end. Hang on to the good memories and try to forget the painful ones.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Please feel free to come back as often as you need to. It helps to talk.
  8. by   wondern
    So so sorry, Sian, for the passing of your father.
    Glad you were able to have a laugh together that you will be able to cherish forever. Also, so happy you were there stroking his head. :redpinkhe Love and prayers are with you. Thank you for sharing. You help others heal. Thanks for that.
  9. by   LockportRN
    Quote from Sian40
    Dear all,

    Thank you for all your kind words & support, I haven't had chance reply, cos I've been back & forward to the hospital.

    Dad died yesterday, after going drastically down hill on Monday, so, 2 weeks to the day, after we were given the diagnosis, which is a blessing for hime, as none of us wanted to see him suffer. Last weekend, we had a family get together, which was wonderful & despite him being very unwell on Tuesday, my family had chance to have a few laughs with him, which will feature a lot in my fond memories of him. I was able to stroke his head as he slipped away peacefully.

    I will probably pop by here from time to time, still quite shell shocked, but I will get there.

    Thank you again
    Sian x
    Sian, my heart goes out to you and yours...you will be in my prayers. I too am happy for you that you got to have some final laughs with him. I will always remember mom's smiles and bravery in her last days. And the family time was invaluable too. Just remember, if you need us, we'll be here.
  10. by   CandyGyrl1985
    Quote from sian40
    dear all,

    thank you for all your kind words & support, i haven't had chance reply, cos i've been back & forward to the hospital.

    dad died yesterday, after going drastically down hill on monday, so, 2 weeks to the day, after we were given the diagnosis, which is a blessing for hime, as none of us wanted to see him suffer. last weekend, we had a family get together, which was wonderful & despite him being very unwell on tuesday, my family had chance to have a few laughs with him, which will feature a lot in my fond memories of him. i was able to stroke his head as he slipped away peacefully.

    i will probably pop by here from time to time, still quite shell shocked, but i will get there.

    thank you again
    sian x

    [font=book antiqua]
    i am so sorry. hugs to you and your family.
    [font=book antiqua]here is a poem that was given to me when my father passed away, and since then i give it to the families of my hospice patients. take care of yourself - and may god bring you peace and comfort.... ~candace~

    [font=book antiqua]

    [font=book antiqua]i think of you in silence
    [font=book antiqua]and often speak your name
    [font=book antiqua]but all thats left to answer me
    [font=book antiqua]is a picture in a frame

    [font=book antiqua]a million times i've needed you,
    [font=book antiqua]a million times i've cried
    [font=book antiqua]if love could have saved you
    [font=book antiqua]you never would have died

    [font=book antiqua]it broke my heart to lose you
    [font=book antiqua]but you did not go alone,
    [font=book antiqua]a part of me went with you
    [font=book antiqua]on the day god took you home

    [font=book antiqua]god saw you getting tired,
    [font=book antiqua]and a cure was not to be
    [font=book antiqua]so he put his arms around you
    [font=book antiqua]and whispered "come to me"

    [font=book antiqua]with tearful eyes we watched
    [font=book antiqua]and saw you pass away
    [font=book antiqua]and though we loved you dearly
    [font=book antiqua]we could not make you stay

    [font=book antiqua]a golden heart stopped beating
    [font=book antiqua]a hard working body at rest
    [font=book antiqua]god broke our hearts to prove
    [font=book antiqua]he only takes the best


  11. by   tnbutterfly
    Thank you for posting that touching poem.
  12. by   nerdtonurse?
    You know, there's a Catholic custom of mourning those that have died in the prior year (all soul's day). I've often thought that we need to have a "staff only" day where we can mourn those we've lost. I mean, if we've got a heart, we're going to have patients that "get to us" but I know I'd feel weird going to a patient's funeral or a wake, and I'm not sure if it would help/hurt the family to see us there, especially if we were there when the pt died. But if we had a "dia de los muertos" at our facilities, where we could mourn and remember those we've lost, it might help a lot of people.
  13. by   AlabamaBelle
    Sian-

    I know how you feel. My mother died Aug 8 of metastatic breast cancer. She went into the hospital in July 21 with cellulitis of the left leg, UTI and altered mental status. During her stay, ascites really kicked in - she looked 10 months pregnant - she had lost so much weight and had much muscle wasting. My husband cried when he saw her. My sisters and I cared for her, along with my precious Daddy, in the hospital and at home. We were told she had less than 3 months and when she and daddy heard from the doctor that this was it, she decided it was time to go. She began slipping away from us on the Tuesday night before her death. She died on her owns terms and in her own home with her family and other close friends around.

    I don't think you take off the "nursing hat". I had skills I could use in caring for her, to make her last days and daddy's last days with her better. She loved it when I bathed her - I was the only one who could that like she liked and I also did her hair (I can do a mean roller set). Did I cry?? Yes, buckets. I still cry buckets. But I can also smile. I did what I could for her.

    On the day after her death, my sisters and I went shopping to find something for her to wear. It was 4pm on Sunday, we thought we only had 2 hrs, but it was tax free weekend, monster sales and stores were open til 8pm. We were able to laugh and talk about how much she would have enjoyed us getting all this stuff together for her, then getting outfits coordinated for ourselves and our daughters.

    The last earthly thing I did for my mother (at daddy's request) was go with my sister-in-law and do mother's hair and make-up. She was very particular about it - I knew how do both liked she preferred and my sister-in-law is a licensed cosmetologist and was able to help me. We weren't sure at first if we could make her look good, but we pulled it off - she was so beautiful.

    Do I cry at work when a patient dies? Yes, most certainly - I work Peds ICU. I can cry with anybody, anytime and I'm okay with that. Some of our intensivists have been known to get misty-eyed. If I can get to the point where I cannot cry, I'll be turning in my notice.

    When I'm home, I do things for me - nails, hair, shopping, internet surfing, allnurses, reading, etc. I pray alot, too.

    Hope this helps,
    Cindy

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