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Obsessed with death since entering the nursing profession

Specializes in Telemetry/Med-Surg.

I have a problem that since I have started working as a nurse I am having real issues thinking about death and what happens afterwards and how i am going to cope when my loved ones die. Of course it becomes worse when I have a patient who dies. I am a spiritual person but not a religous person so I really do not have a set belief on what happens after we die. I was wondering if anyone else has experienced these feelings and how they coped with it or if anyone knows of any books out there that might be helpful. I really feel I need to get this under control for my own sanity and peace and so I can continue to function at my job. I am about to start working in a critical care environment so I know what I see is going to be worse. Thanks in advance for your replies.

you have to talk to someone or find g-d death is natural. thats life


Specializes in PICU, Pediatrics, Pediatric Home Health.

I agree with "MiamiGuy" -- although my viewpoint might sound a bit "harsh", death is a natural part of the life cycle. I personally don't have any set beliefs of where someone goes when they die. When someone close to me dies, I grieve and then I get over it.. I find no point in trying to wrap my head around what happens to them after they die. They are dead... they have no more cares in the world, are pain free, and whether they are in "heaven" or not does not matter to me. I think people put way too much thought in to death -- grieve and deal with death how you want but I think people dwell on death far too long. Death simply sucks... but every living animal dies.. pay respect to your loved one, grieve, and then move on with life.

You might benefit from some Zen Buddhist readings on death. A lot of Buddhist practice focuses on how to realize and accept the inherent impermanence of everything -- death being a part of that, in a very natural, holistic way.

It's an interesting perspective and might give you a starting point to deal with your problems. The book "Buddhism without Belief" has a chapter on death and is a good starting point. Let me know if you'd like some others -- the internet has a lot of good writings on the subject, too. The cool thing is that you don't have to be a Buddhist or commit to any particular belief system to do the readings and take from them what you wish.

Hope this helps.

Death bothers me too, you can go insane thinking about it. You have to just accept that it's a part of life, everyone dies. But that's easier said than done. It might be helpful to do a little research on different religions and how they view death, maybe you'll find something that will help. Also, try not to spend too much time thinking about it, get your mind off it and go out and do something fun.


Has 20 years experience. Specializes in Psychiatry (PMHNP), Family (FNP).

I agree with the posts above and I would add: Its interesting you state "I am a spiritual person but not a religious person" I would think that as a spiritual person, not a religious person you might be even a little further along on the journey about life after death or whatever understanding you come to about this important life issue. Certainly this is a major existential issue we all have to deal with as well as a spiritual issue. I deal with this with clients a lot and I encourage them to explore their beliefs and experiences to determine their own understanding of life/death. Personally I no longer believe in the death myth, having experienced myself out of body life and etc...however that is a personal experience which helps me - but not necessarily you or others. You need to find out what is true for you. Take a deep breath and realize maybe its a good thing that you are in a profession where you need to grapple with the issue. It will only move you onwards in your spiritual life. It's an issue many never deal with. Best of luck to you!

Personally I no longer believe in the death myth, having experienced myself out of body life and etc

what do you mean the "death myth" ?

mustlovepoodles, RN

Specializes in OB/GYN, Peds, School Nurse, DD.

I have honestly never feared death--well, I'm afraid of dying in terrible pain, but I'm not afraid of moving from this world to the next. Death will happen to all of us eventually. Simple as that. Nobody likes to think that their loved ones will die before us, because we don't want to feel that pain. But the truth is, unless we are very young we *will* experience at least a close deaths in our lifetime.

I think you have to find a way to make peace with the reality of life & death. My personal belief is that we all go to some hereafter. So, to my way of thinking, death is simply a different stage of life. My DH and my DS15 have terrible disabilities. DH will very likely die of respiratory failure in the next 5-10 years. DS is very mentally handicapped and has seizures. We take every precaution, but the fact is, he *could* escape from my grasp and run out in front of a car. He *could* die in his sleep from a seizure. I can't dwell on it. I can't grieve ahead of time, it's not healthy. If I think on it too long, it paralyzes me. And that's not good for my life in the present. I choose to be optimistic AND realistic, prepared for the possibilities but not so overly frightened that I can't enjoy my life.

If you really can't get ahold of yourself, I would recommend that you talk to a therapist to work it through. A few sessions might be very revealing to you.

Without getting religious, philosophical, or feelings of despair. Think of dying as you, your loved ones, or Pts. will no longer suffer, no longer care about the problems of everyday life, etc. We can remember those who have passed in words, photos, and video.

We don't know when our time is up, so why spend your life worrying about the end.


John 3:16 gives me peace.

I wish you all the best,


i'm with smitty08.

really get in touch and explore your spiritual side.

for most of us, it brings us peace.

i would also recommend volunteering in an in-patient hospice unit.

you'll see lots of stuff that will/should open your mind.



Specializes in Geriatrics, Adult Psych, Peds HH.

I have become obsessed in a way also after watching several patients die with experiences that were, well, unusual. One particular patient constantly cried for two days about descending into flames, another spoke frequently of spirits in the room.

Dalzac, LPN, LVN, RN

Specializes in CCU,ICU,ER retired.

Since I worked in ICU,CCU,and ER, I just don't fear death. My son died 5 yrs ago and I miss him becaused I loved him and missed his company. I very nearly died myself 25 yrs ago and since then I just feel it is so natural. We are born. We live, spend time with the ones we want too. And then we die and we all do this. No one gets out alive. What counts is the quality we make of it.


Has 2 years experience.

I agree with the advice you've been given, but I wonder if it's not a little more difficult for you to just start thinking of it differently; after all, if it were that simple, wouldn't you have already done it? If this is really interfering with your life, might I suggest speaking with your family doctor? You don't have to live that way. Once your thinking is brought more into your control, then you might have a clearer head to deal with the "why's" and have a chance to deal with your feelings about everything. Just my :twocents:

Best of luck to you.


Has 20 years experience. Specializes in Psychiatry (PMHNP), Family (FNP).

In response to question "what do you mean about the "death myth" from another poster: I used that term because that is how I think of it. After one experiences OOB or life after death, one has to find a new way to think of the process of leaving one's physical body -either leaving it temporarily or permanently. The term "death" does not really apply, as "we" or conciousness - continues. At that point, the idea "we" go on is now longer a hope or concept or belief - but a REALITY. A process experienced. Hence, the word "death being a "myth" at least for me (and others.) Ok it sounds...uuummm...kooky...but its true for me. ;)


Has 14 years experience.

I think this fear is not something that is going to go away anytime soon. It sounds to me like you need to do some reading and talking with others.

I am an atheist, so I'm not affiliated with any sort of church, but it seems to me like the Unitarians are some of the more, oh, philosophical. My oldest daughter occasionally goes to a unitarian church with a friend, and from what she describes, it truly is more of an academic exercise. Honest discussion about different religions, different philosophies, different belief and practices, is what my daughter tells us. Perhaps you can contact a few of your area religious leaders, including the head of the local Unitarian Church, regarding your discomfort, and see what they have to offer. If they have any suggestions on upcoming lectures, book or video suggestions, group discussions that they think might help you in your quest for understanding. If they make you feel weird or uncomfortable about it, then you know their organization won't be able to help.

I like reading fictional books about live beyond death. I honestly believe that when we die, NOTHING happens. You're just gone. Your consciousness ceases to function along with your bodily functions, and it's the end. But I like *imagining* the possibilities. Piers Anthony's "Death Rides a Pale Horse" (science fiction), Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet in Heaven", "Millions" by Frank Cottrell Boyce, "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold are a few suggestions, if you are so inclined.


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