Coping with the Death of a Patient
August 5, 2019
For doctors, nurses, and hospice workers, death is an inevitable aspect of the job. Since care providers often develop deep concern and even affection for their patients, it is only natural to feel sorrow when someone in their care dies. Coping strategies are essential, both for new nurses and seasoned hospice workers, so that they can go on tending to terminally ill individuals with the empathy and care they deserve.
Become Comfortable with Death and Dying
The first and most important way to cope with death is to recognize its inevitability. Understanding that everyone dies can be a powerful tool to prepare for the possibility of the loss of a deteriorating patient. Seeking out an experienced fellow doctor or hospice worker could be a beneficial way to hear their reassuring stories and unique perspectives on death and dying. You may also choose to meditate or pray. These practices can offer peace of mind and strength to carry on in these emotionally taxing situations.
After the death of a patient, it is important not to avoid your thoughts of emotions. Rather than pushing your feelings to the side, embrace them. Allow yourself to cry if you desire; letting out your emotions can be deeply healing.
Talking to fellow care providers can be beneficial as well. Your colleagues can best relate and understand what you are going through. Often, it is therapeutic to speak with others who have had the same experiences. They can offer comfort, support, and advice at this difficult time.
You may also choose to speak with the family of the deceased, as long as they are ready and willing. Expressing your condolences and interacting with your patient’s loved ones could be valuable both for you and them. They will likely feel gratitude and relief that their loved one had such a devoted care provider at the end of their life. And you may feel pride and awe that you helped guide someone through the final stages of life with dignity.
Should you feel your grief to be too much to bear, you may wish to see a therapist to help process everything you have experienced. There is no shame in talking with a trained professional to help you. In the end, it will allow you to continue delivering skilled and compassionate care to others in the future.