30/09/16 Note: More content has been added to the post to make the post longer and to support my argument more. I have also added more references and media to the post to help strengthen my content. After proof reading the post, I have made the necessary grammatical changes and spell checks.
We all experience that uneasy, unpleasant feeling that cripples us, that feeling called fear. Mine is death and loss. The whole concept of death freaks me out, I cringe at the thought of it and I tend to dread the topic. Death, which according to Merriam-Webster. (n.d.), is defined as the end of life is an inevitable aspect of the human condition. As human being, death is something we all have to go through or deal with at some point. As a physio student, however, death is something we deal with more often than we wish. Getting into physio, I knew having one of my patients die was something that was going to happen at some point. Even though I knew this, one can never prepare themselves for such occurrences. I imagined losing a patient would be quite saddening but didn’t know how painful it would be until I experienced it.
When working with patients, I tend to develop some form of attachment to some of my patients depending on how much time I have spent with them and their personalities. Losing a patient can be quite saddening but to be honest, it usually does not affect me that much. This changed when I on my 3rd block last year. Mr X was not the first patient of mine to die. He was, however, the first patient I had become very close with to die.
“Molo Ntombam” (hello my daughter), those were the words Mr X would say to me every time I went to see him in his ward for treatment. He was the first patient I saw every morning because he somehow knew how to brighten up my day. His charisma, sense of humour and overall personality drew me closer to him. He often told me how I reminded him of his daughter and how smart he thought I was. Mr X was a 55 year old male who suffered a right CVA with left sided hemiplegia. Throughout my 3 weeks of working with him, he seemed to be recovering fast plus he said he felt better. He was now able to move from sit to stand compared when I first saw him (couldn’t even roll). I felt that was a great achievement for him and myself.
One morning I walked into Mr X’s ward to find the bed empty with fresh sheets. It never occurred to me that he had died. I remember I went to one of the sisters to ask which ward he had been moved to. It was so devastating to hear that Mr X had passed away the previous day. It was the first time a patient of mine whom I felt really close to die in the hospital, and I cried profusely that night. All I could do was hope he would be fine where ever he was. This experience made me wonder, I there really life after death? Well I hope so.
After this experience, I went on and researched ways of dealing with death and loss. During this process, I came across the 5 stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.
From these stages I learned that, when we experience loss, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage with different levels of intensity. The five stages of loss do not necessarily occur in any specific order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief.
Understanding the stages of grief have given me a better understanding of the concept of death and how to deal will death in a professional manner at a work place. To learn more about the 5 stages of grief, use the link to a you-tube video below.
Death | Definition of Death by Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/death
Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying.
Whitehead, P. R. (2012). The lived experience of physicians dealing with patient death. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 4(3), 271-276. doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000326