When choosing to study physiotherapy I did not realize that death would be around me so often. I always just thought of the fact that you treat a patient, help them recover and they go on with life. Being exposed to the clinical setting has made me explore aspects that I did not think I would need to. Thankfully none of my patients have passed away, but I have witnessed the passing away of other patients whom I would see in the wards on a daily basis. Last year I arrived at the hospital like every other day but that day was different, 2 patients passed away during the night. I watched as the bodies were moved and then taken by paramedics. I could not understand how in a matter of a few hours a person can take their last breath and cease to exist. This experience stuck with me for a while and eventually I accepted it or maybe I just buried it.
A few years ago I lost a loved one. It took me, what seemed like, forever to accept that he is no longer with us. I yearned to just see or hear him just once more but once i accepted that he was never coming back I felt a sense of peace I could not explain, I realized he was in a better place, at ease and pain free. Even though religious beliefs teach you to accept death as it is inevitable, it is still the most difficult thing to do.
Recently I have realized that I am not as affected by death as I used to be, and this fact scares me. Unfortunately this year I have lost many loved ones and while it was very upsetting and heart breaking I seemed to have accepted the losses faster than my other family members and previous losses. I got to thinking what could cause this. Is it that working in the medical field and being exposed to the possibility of death make it easier for me to accept? Is it the understanding of medical conditions and considering the patient’s quality of life another factor? Am I just able to detach myself? Was a just too busy to think about the loses? I was worried because part of my personality is being a soft-hearted person and I did not want to lose qualities that makes me, me.
According to Parkes (1998) there are 3 main components which affect grief, the urge to look back, cry, search for what is lost. Depending on the extent of the above mentioned components, it affects the grieving process and influences the time of the grieving period. If one does not grieve effectively, this can affect them in the future as they will not be able to accept the loss they experienced and they will not be able to move forward. Losses are not always harmful, they can lead to growth and foster maturity (Parkes, 1998).
According to Reynolds (2006) when healthcare professionals believe that death has resulted in the patient being pain free and at ease they can accept the loss more easily. Medical practitioners should be educated on dealing with the loss of patients so they do not stop providing support and empathy to the family of the deceased (Reynolds, 2006).
As healthcare professionals it is important for us to accept and come to terms with death as we have to provide support to our patient’s loved ones. When experiencing the loss of a patient we are given the opportunity to grow and learn from each loss.
Parkes, C. M. (1998). Bereavement in adult life. British Medical Journal, 856–859.
Reynolds, F. (2006). How doctors cope with death. Archives of disease in children, 727.