As our lecture describes, “death is a particularly traumatic and difficult experience for both family and caregivers” (Grand Canyon, 2015). A rather interesting distinction I observed while working on both of these units and witnessing death in different underlying situations/stages: death on the oncology unit usually came after a long, hard fight with cancer. As such, patient’s families were often understandably distraught and through their grief expressed feeling “robbed” of time with their loved one. When death occurred on the geriatric unit however, family members would sometimes express feelings of gratitude that their loved one lived to a ripe age and felt at peace that their time had come, as it was expected. In witnessing these experiences, it made me understand that death is easier to swallow/digest for some when it occurs from natural age process versus caused by disease.
The acceptance of death and the grieving process is experienced differently by everyone. Personally, I feel my bedside experience as a nurse has helped me understand this process a great deal and I empathize greatly with the patients/families I have encountered.
I have only witnessed death a couple of times at work. I have worked with hospice patients that visit the doctor’s office and these have been about comfort. Since I am a float in the clinic setting, I do not come across much death. I did when I worked on the medical floor; there, acceptance of the death depended more on if it was expected or not. I think that when we know death is going to occur it is easier to accept and come to terms with. When death is not expected it can be harder because of the sudden loss. I do not think that the lack of experience at work has shaped my view on death because I have dealt with it personally.
I think that I handle death fairly well because I grew up with death being a natural part of life. As we grew up on the farm it was normal to lose animals. We also have a very large extended family and we went to funerals fairly regularly. While others have viewed that as wrong or depressing to have children go to funerals, it was never viewed that way by my family because it was a part of life and we celebrated that life. I have not shielded my children from death either. My sister-in-law and I have different views on this; I accept her decision, she does accept not mine. She was upset when we brought our children to the first funeral on my husband’s side of the family but it was very natural to me. Death is only one step in life and should not be feared.