Grief » Nursing Jobs Blog – Nurses Insights at Nursing


July 10th, 2007  |  Penlight

An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior-Viktor Frankl

I hadn’t been exposed much to death before I was a nurse. AIDS was in full force, having just been upgraded from GRID. I knew several people who died, but none of them well. Although I attended their funerals, I wasn’t involved in their dying. When I went to work on the telemetry unit, most of the patients who died fell into two categories: unexpected codes and the really elderly, who were usually DNR’s. Occasionally, we’d get someone up from the ER who didn’t have long to live, sometimes they barely had a blood pressure. I guess the feeling was that since they were a DNR, they weren’t going to send them to the ICU, but they didn’t want to send them to a med/surg floor, either. They always seemed to die alone. That, more than anything, really bothered me. Then would come the phone call to a relative, usually in the wee hours, to tell them. Almost always they seemed to have already come to terms with the news. I guess when the nursing home calls and says that your 92 year old mother is being admitted to the hospital and isn’t doing well, it’s not a total shock when she dies.

It wasn’t until I hit the ER that I saw grief in its raw and potent state. One night, we coded a hospital employee who had been electrocuted. It was the first time I had seen someone prostrate with grief. His wife threw herself on the ground, clutching her hair and screaming. Now, I look back on ten years of experience and, although I’m not stupid enough to say I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been with a wife who, when told of her husband’s death, just sighed and said, “I knew something was wrong when he didn’t come home for lunch.” I’ve seen people throw themselves on top of the dead person, as if they could wrestle him away from Death. I’ve seen a lot of anger which, personally, I don’t mind. To me, anger seems like the most normal reaction to death. It’s an affront to our ego, that no matter who we are or what we do, we can’t escape it.

I hate those cop shows where they use the person’s reaction to a love one’s death as a clue to their guilt or innocence. Yeah, I know you learn to “read” people. It reminds of the book, Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown. The main character loses her dad and she goes through the funeral numb and silent. A few weeks later, she’s reading a book and suddenly, something reminds her of him. Her mom walks in to find her sobbing. I don’t have the book anymore, but basically her mom reprimands her, “You can cry over some stupid book, but you can’t cry for your father?” Sometimes, even those close to us don’t get it.

Nursing has come a long way in addressing the needs of dying patients and grieving families. I do feel the information learned is useful, but sometimes a little too static for dealing with real life situations. Yes, many Asians may appear stoic in their grief, other cultures may be more vocal. So, is the openly wailing Asian person abnormal? No. Take my little household, for example. We live in a town with a large population of Orthodox Jews, including our landlord. Their ways are a mystery to my husband. Since I dated a few Jewish men, including my eldest daughter’s father, I have become the family expert on all things Jewish. A little like putting John Wayne in charge of the feminine protection aisle, but there you have it. He wants to know why we can’t pay our rent on Saturday. “But Shabbos was last night.” Yes, and it lasts until sunset today, just like last week. He wants to know why our one neighbor wears a yamaka, but drives his car on Friday night. I don’t know. Why do some Catholics eat meat on Fridays during Lent? Because they choose to, that’s why.

My point is, people come as individuals. Knowing their cultural context for grief is a tool, not a diagnosis. Recently, Kim at Emergiblog said that one of the key ingredients of a nurse was flexibility. She didn’t mean you should be able to touch your toes. Having an open mind is useful and combined with the nursing process and a good dose of life experience can help you help the grieving family. People Living With Cancer has a good page that explains how to best assess someone’s grieving needs.

Susan Palwick has a great post over on her blog, Rickety Contrivances of Doing Good, about working with grieving families. Be sure to check out the links and also the comments, both of which have some great tips. Susan brings up a good point, that in order to be comfortable with another’s strong emotions, we need to be comfortable with our own. Above all else, we must lose our assumptions about what constitutes “normal” grieving. When you feel like your heart is breaking, nothing is normal.

Susan McNicholas
About Susan McNicholas
I graduated Brookdale Community College in December, 1996. Most of my nursing experience has been in the emergency room, but I've also done stints in the OR and PICU. For the last 3 years I've worked as a transplant coordinator for an organ procurement organization. These experiences I share in my blog at Donor Cycle. I also live with my amazing husband, my teenage daughter and my new baby girl. Along with a smelly dog, various cats and too many fish they make up the rest of my life.

98 Responses to “Grief”

  • Tabitha said on August 4th, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Great post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am
    inspired! Extremely useful info specially the final phase
    :) I handle such info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

  • said on August 5th, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Hey! I understand this is sort of off-topic but I had to ask.
    Does managing a well-established blog such as yours take a lot of work?
    I’m brand new to running a blog however I do
    write in my diary everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I will be
    able to share my personal experience and thoughts
    online. Please let me know if you have any ideas
    or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!

  • said on August 6th, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s
    new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and
    checking back frequently!

  • James Frazer Mann said on August 16th, 2017 at 2:38 am

    Hey there, You’ve done a great job. I will definitely
    digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • Lelio Vieira Carneiro Junior said on August 17th, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website thus i came to
    go back the desire?.I’m trying to find things to improve my web site!I guess its adequate to make use of some of your ideas!!

  • resep makanan balita 1 tahun said on August 23rd, 2017 at 1:09 am

    Simply want to say your article is as astonishing.

    The clearness in your post is just cool and i could assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission allow me to grab your
    RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please carry on the enjoyable work.

  • susu buat anak susah makan said on August 23rd, 2017 at 1:53 am

    Superb, what a blog it is! This weblog presents useful facts to us,
    keep it up.

  • Jere said on August 23rd, 2017 at 7:51 am

    Great blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own website soon but
    I’m a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that
    I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Thanks!

  • augusto de arruda botelho said on August 23rd, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Saved as a favorite, I like your site!

  • augusto de arruda botelho said on August 23rd, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous
    blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

  • Silvia Odete Morani Massad said on August 24th, 2017 at 8:41 am

    This article is genuinely a pleasant one it assists new internet people,
    who are wishing for blogging.

  • said on August 24th, 2017 at 9:55 am

    I know this site provides quality based posts and extra
    data, is there any other web page which provides
    these kinds of stuff in quality?

  • menu makanan anak 3 tahun said on August 24th, 2017 at 11:04 am

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with
    the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

  • makanan untuk anak yang susah makan said on August 24th, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I_m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. Cheers

  • augusto de arruda botelho said on August 24th, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article!
    It’s the little changes that make the biggest changes. Thanks
    a lot for sharing!

  • Kristeen said on August 27th, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a
    new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on.
    You’ve done a formidable job and our entire community
    will be grateful to you.

  • said on September 3rd, 2017 at 1:02 am

    Right here is the perfect webpage for anyone who would like to find out about this topic.
    You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I
    really would want to_HaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a subject that’s been discussed for a long time.
    Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

  • said on September 3rd, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    When someone writes an post he/she keeps the idea of a
    user in his/her mind that how a user can understand it.
    Thus that’s why this paragraph is outstdanding. Thanks!

  • trading penny stocks said on September 4th, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Hello! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m
    having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  • overrated interest rate said on September 6th, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I to find this
    topic to be really something that I think I would by no means understand.

    It seems too complicated and very large for me.
    I am having a look forward on your next put up, I’ll try to get the dangle of it!

  • said on September 7th, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Hi there, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this blog post.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!

  • Natasha said on September 7th, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also pay
    a visit this webpage on regular basis to take updated from hottest gossip.

  • said on September 9th, 2017 at 12:15 am

    I used to be able to find good advice from your blog posts.

  • start up business loans said on September 9th, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    whoah this blog is fantastic i really like reading your
    posts. Keep up the good work! You recognize, many individuals are searching around for this information,
    you could aid them greatly.

  • Sandra said on September 9th, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Hello to all, it’s in fact a good for me to pay a visit this web
    site, it includes important Information.

  • Wilhemina said on September 10th, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    It’s in fact very complicated in this busy life to listen news on TV, therefore
    I just use world wide web for that reason, and get the
    hottest news.

  • overrated interest rates said on September 11th, 2017 at 4:01 am

    Hi there, this weekend is good in support of me, as
    this moment i am reading this fantastic educational paragraph here at my residence.

  • garage door controls said on September 11th, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Just want to say your article is as astonishing.

    The clarity on your put up is simply excellent and i could assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Fine along with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up
    to date with approaching post. Thank you one million and please carry on the enjoyable work.

  • real estate agents said on September 12th, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic.

    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  • golf course said on September 15th, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
    precious knowledge about unpredicted emotions.

  • air travel said on September 15th, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something
    which helped me. Cheers!

  • golf club said on September 16th, 2017 at 2:48 am

    Because the admin of this website is working, no hesitation very rapidly it will be renowned, due to its feature contents.

  • golf courses said on September 17th, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Hello, yeah this post is actually fastidious and I have learned
    lot of things from it about blogging. thanks.

  • travel news said on September 18th, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who
    had been conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me dinner because I found it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah,
    thanks for spending some time to discuss this subject here
    on your internet site.

  • Lelio Vieira Carneiro Junior said on September 18th, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I have read a few just right stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for
    revisiting. I surprise how so much attempt you
    put to make such a excellent informative website.

  • said on September 19th, 2017 at 5:47 am

    whoah this weblog is great i really like studying your posts.

    Stay up the great work! You realize, lots of people
    are looking round for this info, you can help them greatly.

  • tourism presents said on September 21st, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Thank you for any other informative website. The place
    else may just I am getting that kind of info written in such a
    perfect means? I have a mission that I’m simply now running on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such

  • said on September 22nd, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Definitely believe that that you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet
    the simplest factor to have in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while
    people think about issues that they just don’t realize about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out
    the whole thing without having side-effects ,
    people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more.
    Thank you

  • said on September 23rd, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have bookmarked it for later!

  • Lena said on September 24th, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this website regularly, this web page is
    genuinely fastidious and the users are truly sharing good thoughts.

  • well-known dating said on September 25th, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Good day! This is my first visit to your blog!

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

  • Bernardo said on September 27th, 2017 at 1:33 am

    What’s up to every one, because I am genuinely keen of reading this webpage’s post to be updated
    on a regular basis. It consists of pleasant

  • purchasing timex said on September 30th, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the easiest thing
    to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed
    while people consider worries that they plainly
    do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without
    having side-effects , people could take a signal.
    Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  • holiday travel around said on October 1st, 2017 at 1:57 am

    I have been browsing online more than 4 hours
    today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be
    a lot more useful than ever before.

  • said on October 1st, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Howdy are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own.
    Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • travel around said on October 3rd, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well

  • jordan soccer said on October 3rd, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Hello, every time i used to check web site posts here in the
    early hours in the daylight, because i enjoy to gain knowledge
    of more and more.

  • It’s an awesome article for all the internet users;
    they will get benefit from it I am sure.

Copyright © 1999-2020 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All Rights Reserved.
Call 888.613.8844 (M-F, 7-5 Pacific)

Send a message

By clicking the ["Send Message"] button, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, and to the use of cookies described therein, and you also consent to the collection, storage, and processing of your data in the United States where the level of data protection may be different from that in your country.