Published Nov 9, 2004
i am a nurse and have been the grieving family member of both an expected death of my grandmother and a tragic, unexpected death of a sibling.
i would like "psych nurses" and others to add or dispute this list:
things you should never say to a grieving family:
1. he/she is in a better place
2. god took him/her home or he/she is in heaven with god
3. dont cry
4. he/she isnt suffering anymore (this may be ok with some families)
3. would you like to pray?
4. dont offer a hug unless you have an established relationship w/them
5. it'll get better with time
6. never rush a family to view or spend time w/their deceased loved one
7. would you like to talk?
8. it happened for a reason
9. i know how you feel because....(they dont want to hear your story)
there is very little if nothing you can say to make them feel better - thats just a fact. just be there to listen - maybe a hand on the shoulder but not much physical contact unless they initiate it.
points well taken erslave.
and i will share that i am truly sorry for your losses.
often people feel awkward and out come these meaningless trivialities, however unintentional.
perhaps it would be helpful if there were teachings on what one could do to help a grieving person.
I try to take my cue from the bereaved person (having been bereaved myself). That person may bring up one of those and in that case I try to follow along.
It is very hard not to offer sympathy, because everyone wants to help. But sometimes people say cruel things when they really mean well...and yes, some or all of the things you listed may be perceived as cruel by the person involved. Some of those may be OK, depending on what point in the grief process the person is.
The only thing I can offer to someone who is trying to help is to listen, listen, listen. Don't fill up the silence because YOU are uncomfortable.
i am a nurse and have been the grieving family member of both an expected death of my grandmother and a tragic, unexpected death of a sibling.i would like "psych nurses" and others to add or dispute this list: things you should never say to a grieving family: 1. he/she is in a better place 2. god took him/her home or he/she is in heaven with god 3. dont cry 4. he/she isnt suffering anymore (this may be ok with some families) 3. would you like to pray? 4. dont offer a hug unless you have an established relationship w/them 5. it'll get better with time 6. never rush a family to view or spend time w/their deceased loved one 7. would you like to talk? 8. it happened for a reason 9. i know how you feel because....(they dont want to hear your story)there is very little if nothing you can say to make them feel better - thats just a fact. just be there to listen - maybe a hand on the shoulder but not much physical contact unless they initiate it.
as a psych nurse i deal with very little death. perhaps a better authority on the subject would be a hospice nurse. however, i do agree that typically the nurse is not there to act as a grief counselor. imho you should offer to do whatever they'd like you to do (eg. get a box of tissues) then excuse yourself from their presence.
Thunderwolf, MSN, RN
Agree with the above. I go by the cues the family presents. Some want to talk, some do not. I ask if there is anything I can get or do for them at the moment, I listen, then I excuse myself but inform them that I will check on them in order to provide them privacy to allow them to grieve in their own way.
I just lost my dad a couple of weeks ago (actually, quite a tragic 4 month long story from beginning to end). I've been burying myself in the internet since my return from home Sunday (from another state).
One thing I can say NOT to ask the children of a woman who's just lost her husband of nearly 50 years:
"How's your mom doing?"
How the he** do you think she's doing?
I know this isn't related to nursing, but just the same. I know you're asking from the bottom of your heart, but please don't ask that question.
We had an online guestbook through the funeral home for my dad for people to sign if they wished.
I will always cherish this message to my family from my dad's occupational therapist.
Mr. ***** was a wonderful man whom I came to know as his Occupational Therapist at ******. I had the pleasure of working with him for close to 4 months. He had a spark and drive unlike many...with a will to succeed. Regardless of how he really felt...he always told me he was doing fine... I remember the last time I worked with him...about a week prior to his passing. He told me he was tired...but, he certainly gave it his all. I told him I am honored to work with you...and he said "You should be...". I meant every word and surely will miss his smile and sense of humor. God Bless You All in Your Time of Sorrow and May He Rest in Peace. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
I lost my dad the week of my 3rd anniversary, and my husband the week of our 14th anniversary.
I agree with most of your list, but not necessarily #2. When its just a platitude and carelessly flung around, no, don't use it. But when it's a close church member, or telling my own children: its a good reminder that God loves us, that one day we'll be together again, that death isn't truly the end, a little bit of hope in a lousy situation.
I offer hugs in the ED, especially if the survivor doesn't have anyone else there. Notice I said OFFER, and can't tell you how many times I've been clung to very hard.
Paying attention to the individual is better than just following a set of rules. (please please please do not take that as an attack, its just my offering of experiences)
One thing I can say NOT to ask the children of a woman who's just lost her husband of nearly 50 years: "How's your mom doing?" How the he** do you think she's doing?
"How's your mom doing?"
How the he** do you think she's doing?
When I got asked that, I'd say "hanging in", and mime hanging, with my head tilted over and tongue sticking out. Not very mature, but what the heck.
traumaRUs, MSN, APRN
I work in the ER and am often with a grieving family - many times I'm with the doctor when they give the news. Like many of the above posters, I take my cue from them. I always offer to let them see the patient (unless police object - like for victims of crimes), I encourage family presence during codes but I also let them know that there isn't a right or wrong way to do anything. I stay with the family in the background when they go in to the trauma room but after a bit if I sense they want more time, I let them know I'll check back with them.
I can't agree with all of these. My son died in an accident two weeks ago. They took him straight to a funeral home then the M.E.'s place, so there was no nurse intervening, but the detective did ask if I wanted to talk. And at the time, I did. I slobbered all over him. It was what I needed at the time.
People, some friends, some aquaintances, some strangers, told me stories of their lost children. And it was a comfort to me to know that my husband and I were not alone, and that Andrew is not alone.
People ask how I'm doing. They know we're still hurting. They just want to make sure I'm not about to jump off a bridge or something. They want to make sure that I'm at least going through the motions. They are trying to see what I need at this time.
When people offered things, and said things that I did not need at the time, I never took offense. They were just as stuck as to what to do to make things better. And that's usually all they're tyring to do. They feel helpless, too.
Everyone is different, everyone has different needs. It helps if you can get a feel for what each person needs at the time. Some do want to talk, some do want to pray. Some do want to know that they are not alone. I know it's not easy, but just try to get a sense of what the family needs at the time.
Spidey's mom, ADN, BSN, RN
CyberKat . . very compassionate response.
I agree with you. People are only trying to help and are not perfect. It is very hard to know where everyone's boundaries are.
And sometimes people just need to get mad, vent, strike out . . . if a comment made is the catalyst for that, I'd just sit and take it and let them say what they needed to say.
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