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Was he scared?

Hospice   (340 Views 5 Comments)
by bananorama bananorama, LPN (New Member) New Member

452 Visitors; 11 Posts

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I had a young client who died and I was able to determine when he was having his last breaths. As the family was gathered in the room, I said "these are his last breaths now," so that they could gather around him and support him during those last moments and it sounded like he was crying. After he passed, his wife looked shaken and asked "do you think he was scared?" I didn't know what to say, I just said that he had a lot of love around him and I'm sure that brought him comfort. Now I look back and I feel like I made him cry. He must have heard me say that he was having his last breaths. It was so stupid of me to say that now that I look back on it. It's such an awful feeling. I think he was scared and I feel like I caused it.

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Katillac has 18 years experience as a RN.

170 Likes; 6,944 Visitors; 321 Posts

What you replied to the wife was perfect. It was true, and you can't really know if he was scared, especially since the spouse didn't know. He  might have been crying, or maybe not. If he was crying, he may have been sad to leave. Or it might have been that you didn't scare him at all, it was all the family suddenly gathered around him. People seem to know what that means.

Another time you'll choose to say something different. You'll tell the family time may be getting short, or you'll just say this might be a good opportunity to be with your person. You did a good thing to let them choose if they wanted to be at the bedside as he slipped away. Think about the fact that you were well intended and that experience can be a really mean teacher sometimes.

Do what you need to do to let go of the blame and guilt. Write him a letter (not to be sent, of course). Apologize in your letter for anything you did that made the passing over more difficult.  Or sit in an empty church, or on top of a mountain, or by the water and tell him how you feel. Ask him to forgive you. And then try to forgive yourself for a mistake you made that might have caused some harm, one that you will never, ever do again.

Our conscience is there for a reason. it nudges us when we've done something not in keeping with our values. It motivates us to change our behavior. But holding on to guilt is a burden I don't think you are meant to carry here. I'm pretty sure even if you did scare him, he would not want his crying to be the cause of your ongoing suffering.

I'm glad you put it out here. But this specialty area isn't very well traveled here any more. I hope my response was a little bit helpful, if not, please feel free to completely disregard. It's just my opinion.

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2 Likes; 5 Visitors; 1 Post

I think you are putting way to much pressure on yourself.  There is no telling what was going on in his mind.  He could have been pain free for the first time in months, he could have been seeing people he hasnt seen in years or seeing things he has never seen. Try to remember that crying isnt always indicative of being sad.  Your intentions were good and brought peace to the family and we will never know what he was seeing, hearing or feeling, but take comfort in knowing he is not uncomfortable now and his family was able to be there for those last breaths.

 

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1 Like; 83 Visitors; 1 Post

Katillac, I really like your answer. I’ve only been in hospice nursing for 6 months and appreciate your advice. 

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452 Visitors; 11 Posts

Thanks to all of you for your responses and support. You are so right, I am learning from every experience - even the very real and difficult ones. I think I will do that Katillac, try to send him my thoughts and ask for forgiveness ❤️

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